FORGOTTEN BOOK: TOMORROW’S CRIMES by Donald Westlake, 1989
This is the 87th in my series of Forgotten Books.
When Donald Westlake died on December 31, 2008 the world lost one incredible writer. He wrote caper novels, noir novels, sleaze novels, straight mysteries and, amazingly, some quality science fiction.
This week the Forgotten Books group is making a concerted effort to bring attention to Westlake’s books in anticipation of his final unpublished novel THE COMEDY IS FINISHED which is being published next week by Hard Case Crime, one of my favorite presses. Since Missions Unknown is devoted to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, my choices for Westlake books was limited to HUMANS (1992) or TOMORROW’S CRIMES (1989). I chose TOMORROW’S CRIMES since it contains some short stories as well as a short novel ANARCHAOS which I reviewed about six months ago.
TC contains nine short pieces, all of which have something to recommend them. My two favorites were “Nackles”, a mini-masterpiece of horrific science fiction. It deals with an unkind father who hates his children and does not want to give them Christmas presents. He devises the anti-Santa Claus, Nackles who is Santa’s brother. For children who are not good, Nackles takes them on Christmas Eve and munches on their bodies. Dear old Dad gets his children believing it to the point that Nackles comes to life. Mayhem ensues.
I also really liked “The Rick Profession” where an insurance investigator is checking into the death of an asteroid miner and the huge payout his company needs to make. He does not believe all the stories he hears and encounters several interesting twists before the story is finished. The last page is well worth the trip by itself.
Other fun pieces were “The Girl of My Dreams” where a young man falls into love with his dream girl and then finds his odious boss making a play for her in the dreams. “The Spy in the Elevator” is a story of government conspiracies and how people buy into them.
“The Ultimate Caper: The Purloined Letter” deals with the theft of a letter of the alphabet and the hunt to find references to it. I once started a story where the number 4 had been taken and the decimal system was now a base 9 system. It did not work. Westlake’s story does. I am jealous.
The remaining stories “The Winner”, “Dream a Little Dream”, “In at the Death” and “Hydra” all have their moments, but I think the others are the cream of the book. The novel ANARCHAOS is quirky and varies some ion quality throughout the course of the tale. I enjoyed but others have strong distastes in relation to the book.
Westlake wrote a large number of novels, many of which are among the best in the mystery field. If you have not read him, check out THE HUNTER, the first of his Richard Stark novels of the thief Parker. It was filmed with Lee Marvin as POINT BLANK and it is unrelenting. Or check out TWO MUCH, a 1975 novel about twins, murder, and lying. A paperback original, the first orienting has the two girls in pink fuzzy bikinis with (apparently) nothing on underneath. I have not destroyed my copy to verify this. The Dortmunder caper novels including GOD SAVE THE MARK, THE BLACK BIRD, and THE BUSY BODY are a hoot and a half. Well worth searching them out.
So, I have digressed a little but this is the best of Westlake’s science fiction and fantasy. Copies are pretty available at the normal used book places on the web.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.