361 (Hard Case Crime) (Englisch) Taschenbuch
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One occasion of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and a month later he wakes up in a hospital room minus a father, a sister-in-law and an eye. With no family left but his brother, Bill, they set to find out who is responsible and wind up discovering a little more about their family than they ever guessed, including the surprising significance of their father's last word. But blood must avenge blood, so Ray and Bill spend a lot of the novel playing a Holmes and Watson with attitude.
The prose in 361 is so fast that I had to slow down my reading just to keep up. It is a fascinating example of the development of Westlake's craft. Most of the Westlake I've read came from a much later period of his career (1980s or later), and I've not read any of the Richard Stark novels, but this book seems like it would suit Parker fans more than those of his comic mysteries. The many fans of other Hard Case Crime novels, however, will eat it right up.
Only his third novel, 361 is not as solid and confident (or as funny) as the only other earlier work I had read -- the Edgar Award-winning God Save the Mark, published just five years later in 1967. What carries it along wonderfully, however, besides the pure power of the storytelling, is the sense that, behind the typewriter is a writer intensely trying to make an impression on the reader. And, as usual, he succeeds.
One thing was decidedly familiar, reminding me of the Donald E. Westlake style his fans know and love: the number of surprises present in this story allow for plenty of leeway in telling the story. You start to think he's going one way, and he goes another. Or he'll spring something unexpected, hiding it within a paragraph of description or "stage business" (as opposed to giving it its own paragraph like most writers do), thus guaranteeing that the reader does a mental "double-take." That's the kind of writing that makes me celebrate. And that's the kind of writing you can expect from 361.
Originally written in 1962, "361" is vintage pulp fiction, a minor classic from Don Westlake, one of the masters of the hardboiled crime novel. Written in the vein of Jim Thompson, Dashiell Hammett, and Earle Stanley Gardner, Westlake takes the reader on a no-nonsense odyssey of revenge as Kelly pieces together the jigsaw of the father's life he never knew. Ray, now teamed up with brother Bill, chain-smoke their way from hotel room to hotel room, washing down the smoke with "Old Mr. Boston" straight from the bottle as they track down dad's assasins. As the mystery not surprisingly leads to the mob, one wonders if perhaps Mario Puzo didn't take inspiration from "361" in writing his classic "The Godfather".
Writing styles and culture have changed considerably in the past forty years; one of the hidden jewels in reading early works of Westlake and his ilk is the refreshing peek back into life before political correctness mania. But whether you read it for the plot twists and turns, the hard, unadorned prose served cold, or simply as a nostalgic walk down fiction's memory lane, "361" is prime pulp fiction, a quick thrill to savor and enjoy.
Westlake's 361, an early example of his grim and gritty side, has been reissued by the rapidly-becoming-indispensable Hard Case Crime imprint. That any of Westlake's work should be out of print is an unpardonable omission, and to see this grim book --- originally published in 1962 --- back on the rack after an absence of too many years is a welcome occurrence, indeed.
It begins with young Ray Kelly, fresh out of a stint with the Air Force, being picked up by his father for a reunion of sorts. The reunion is cut short when Kelly's father is murdered in front of him. Kelly, himself grievously injured, begins an obsessive hunt for the men who killed his father and changed his life forever. Aided by his brother Bill, Kelly begins a tortuous journey through their father's past, a past that is littered with deceit and disappointment. The subtle focus here, however, is the transformation of Kelly from a peacetime Air Force veteran who is eager and excited with life's prospects to a violent and ruthless killer who knows no limits in his pursuit of revenge.
Westlake's developing mastery of dialogue is on display here. While his reach exceeds his grasp at times, it is instructive to watch Westlake's talent unfolding, in many ways for the first time, on the pages of 361. One also finds here that Westlake, then as now, is a keen observer of the culture and mores of the surroundings --- to wit, New York and its upstate suburbs --- that have served as a rich and ready backdrop for his novels.
While an early work of Westlake's, 361 is not a deficient one, but rather an unacknowledged minor classic that hopefully will be accorded its proper recognition. Recommended.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
361 deals with a Ray, a young man who easily, almost naturally shifts from an ex-air force soldier into an avenger upon the underworld when he and his father are driven off the road by a hail of bullets from an unknown assailant. After awakening in the hospital to learn he's lost an eye, full use of his legs, and his father, he becomes a coldly calculating deliverer of violence.
Learning that his father had once worked for a law firm which handled many mobster clients, Ray uses all his wits and a sudden penchant for brutality to work his way through the crime world until he finds the man responsible.
This is a gripping, straight-forward, in-your-face tale of revenge that throws sparks on every page. A terrific gem in the genre, and a wonderful chance to see how this sort of tale was told back in the day. Highly recommended.
OK, this is a work of pulp fiction, but I still can't give it five stars on the case for nostalgia alone. I think that other reviewers here have done exactly this. Either that or they are pretty exuberant when it comes to handing out five star reviews. I don't think that you will regret getting this book. But keep in mind that this is not Westlake's best by a long shot (though I wish his hard-boiled persona had followed him through his later years).
Dog Eat Dog was written by Edward Bunker and in turn radically influenced Quentin Tarantino to the point where he got a roll in the director's first flick Reservoir Dogs.
Another brutal author that I cant say enough good things about, better than Bunker, an amazingly gifted newer author, is Zeltserman. try "Small Crimes".