Wednesday, July 8, 2009
This is a silly book.
I chose it because it is on my top one hundred list. It won an Edgar in the 1960s. But Donald E. Westlake's God Save the Mark is just a joke.
I don't mean that sarcastically. I don't mean it like you might say to someone who irritates you, "You're just a joke!" I mean this is literally a book-length joke.
Even Westlake admits that at the end. The book ends with the words, "Of course, it was too late to stop payment on the check. But at least it gave us a neat ending, and that's one thing all good cons must have. A neat ending."
To me, that's Westlake's way of saying, "Folks it's just a game, and I won. You were a part of the con, one of the marks too."
And Westlake does win. He keeps you guessing. This is a book where Fred Fitch, the perpetual mark, almost a virgin, ends up rich and in bed with one of two attractive women. He could have ended up with either one. Westlake could have manipulated the story to make it come out a lot of different ways. And the same way with the con. It could have gone a lot of ways.
This book is fun, a one-evening read, the kind of thing which was popular in the 1960s, the con novel. But I have trouble believing it is one of the best one-hundred mystery books ever written (It comes in at 94). I see reading God Save the Mark as kind of like watching Cheers on television. It's not exactly a waste of time, but it's not the most important thing you've ever done either.