Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Drowned Hopes

Drowned Hopes 
by Donald E. Westlake

Publisher's Blurb:
An old cellmate asks Dortmunder for help robbing a reservoir.

In his day, Tom was a hard man. He came up with Dillinger in the 1930s, and pulled a lot of high-profile jobs before the state put him away. They meant it to be for good, but after twenty-three years the prisons are too crowded for seventy-year-old bank robbers, and so they let the old man go. Finally free, he heads straight for John Dortmunder’s house.
Long ago, Tom buried $700,000, and now he needs help digging it up. While he was inside, the government dammed a nearby river, creating a reservoir and putting fifty feet of water on top of his money. He wants to blow the dam, drown the villagers, and move to Acapulco. If Dortmunder wants a clean conscience to go along with his share, he needs to find a nice way to get the money before Tom’s nasty instincts get the best of both of them.

My Reaction:
(This was a "shared read" with Donald-- my first time reading a Westlake novel.  Donald had listened to a couple audiobook versions of other "Dortmunder" novels, so we chose this based on those experiences.  As always, a shared read means no nit-picking witty, insightful, and detailed reactions.)

We laughed a lot during the reading.  That's a good sign in a comedic "crime caper" novel.  I could easily imagine this book being turned into a film.  (And that's a compliment, in this case.)

I think we both agree that the book was a little on the long side (400+ pages) for reading together, which always slows down a reading even further.  There were parts that probably could've been edited out.  Personally, I felt my interest wander whenever we got paragraphs of descriptions of the particulars of "how stuff works"-- or how the zany gang was physically arranging things.  Yeah, I don't really care about that sort of thing, and I don't have much success in visualizing it, honestly.  I'd much rather read dialogue than descriptions of objects being maneuvered.  Fortunately, those boring bits were fairly few and far between.

The characters (according to Donald) are mostly the same recurring cast from the rest of the Dortmunder series, but apart from one or two references to previous books, I didn't feel like I was stepping into the middle of a story without knowing the background.

Drowned Hopes was first published in 1990.  Now, I remember 1990-- or parts of it-- quite well, so it pains me to realize that a novel published that year should seem slightly dated at times.  Not in any way that is detrimental to the enjoyment of reading it, but yes, dated.  (It's like when I watch a re-run of Seinfeld, laugh at some outdated piece of technology or hairstyle-- or Jerry's "mom jeans".  I think, "But it hasn't been that long since this show was on..."  And then I do the math and realize that, yes, it has been 25 years since the first episode aired, and gosh, I'm not getting any younger, either.  Yikes.)

So, final word:  The story was amusing-- very funny in parts-- and certainly good enough that I'd read more by the author.  (But maybe further down the road, because it felt like this one took quite a while to finish, and I'm ready for something different.)