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Double Feature


Double Feature

DOUBLE FEATURE is a gem. If you have an extensive collection of books going back four decades or so, you might have it under its original title, ENOUGH. But most of you will not have it in your possession. That is all the more reason you will want to read this brand new edition, retitled and rejacketed, by the indispensable Hard Case Crime. From day one, this imprint has made a habit of publishing rare or previously unreleased works by Donald E. Westlake. Westlake was superlative on his best days, and on his worst days he was... Well, he didn’t really have any of those kinds of days, which is why DOUBLE FEATURE is worth your attention.

The book caused some confusion when it was originally published. You see, the word “Enough” appears to have nothing to do with the two stories inside. The first is titled “A Travesty,” and it is almost long enough to be a proper novel on its own. The second, “Ordo,” qualifies more as a novelette than a novel. It is a puzzle, though a wondrous one. More on that in a moment.

"DOUBLE FEATURE is a must-read not only for Westlake completists but also for anyone who appreciates good literature."

In “A Travesty,” Westlake strides confidently and hip-deep into familiar territory. It is a darkly comedic work that begins a few seconds after a crime of passion has been committed. Carey Thorpe is the doer and narrator of the piece. He has just murdered Laura Penney, one of his girlfriends, during a heated argument. Her death wasn’t his intent, he hastens to convince readers and himself. Thorpe’s major concern, though, is covering up the deed. He is actually pretty good at it, as he utilizes the extensive knowledge of criminal investigation that he has acquired after watching scores of movies for his work as a fairly well-known film critic.

In fact, Thorpe is so good at it that, when he is inevitably questioned about Laura’s murder, he is able to ingratiate himself with one of the officers assigned to the case by assisting him in the investigation of other murders. However, there is a private investigator who is onto Thorpe; as a result, his web of deceit begins to unravel, partially due to his inability to resist pulling a thread or two on his own. It’s great fun for readers, with its fair share of hilarious moments (some of which would not fly these days) thrown in for good measure. You will never check your luggage at an airport again without thinking of “A Travesty.”

“Ordo” is equally wonderful but for very different reasons. While not a crime story, a thriller or even a tale of suspense, it is faintly reminiscent of the work of John Barth in its tone and subject matter. But it’s still all Westlake, just not as we usually know him. Ordo Tupikos, a career man in the U.S. Navy, opens with a brief history of his two unsuccessful marriages, which includes a short union with a woman named Estelle Anlic when he was 21. It turns out that Estelle was slightly underage, which quickly dissolved the union.

Sixteen years later, Ordo is shocked to find out that Estelle has become Dawn Devayne, a famous actress. He takes leave to travel from Connecticut, where he is stationed, to southern California, where Dawn lives. He just wants to see her. Readers sense that a train wreck is inevitable, yet it’s not a violent one. It’s a sad one, but in ways that you don’t immediately see coming. Again, “Ordo” is a different type of story for Westlake, but it also is one of the best things he ever wrote due to the way that it slices in and out of life right down to the bone.

DOUBLE FEATURE is a must-read not only for Westlake completists but also for anyone who appreciates good literature. Both stories, particularly “Ordo,” can be read in one sitting but will haunt you long after the final page of each has been turned.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 21, 2020

Double Feature
by Donald E. Westlake

  • Publication Date: February 4, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Hard-boiled Mystery, Mystery
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Hard Case Crime
  • ISBN-10: 1785657208
  • ISBN-13: 9781785657207