Pros:colorful characters, both surprising and amusing plot twists
Cons:a bit dated.
The Bottom Line: If you're looking for a fun, quick read, Westlakes comic crime novel God Save the Mark is highly recommended.
God Save the Mark is the 1967 Edgar Award winning, comic crime novel by the prolific Donald Westlake.It’s a character based story focusing on the nerdish Fred Fitch.
Fitch is gullible and tender hearted and he’s been the victim of seemingly every two-bit con-artist and scam in the big city. He’s learned to be skeptical but it still doesn’t stop him from being taken. So when a lawyer contacts him and insists that he’s inherited $300,000, he calls his friend Jack Reilly a cop to verify that an Uncle Matt he never knew existed has indeed left him $300,000. It seems to be true. There's also a beautiful young woman, perhaps his Uncle ex-mistress involved. The bad news is that now someone or several people are threatening his life. The novel is fast-paced, funny and even has some slapstick moments.
This one differs from several other Westlake novels. It’s a stand-alone book. Westlake didn’t write a series of Fred Fitch stories. It’s also written in a stiffer more formal tone that might put you off at first but it fits the Fitch character perfectly—so stick with it (give it at least 50 pages and most will be hooked). As you might expect, it’s a bit dated, but just when you think you can’t be surprised by any of the developments or some of the supporting characters motivations, there’s yet another satisfying believable twist.
Although I’m a big Westlake fan and have enjoyed many of his books, he does sometimes throw in plot developments and twists that throw his books off track for me. Usually he still manages to come up with a good ending that partially redeems the flaws, but it stops me from highly recommending several Westlake books. Not this time.
God Saves the Mark is a gem. It was clever, smart, funny and I'm not going to ruin any of its surprises by tellying you anymore about it.
Donald Westlake (who died in 2008) published over a hundred books (mostly fiction, some hard-boiled crime, lots of comic capers, occasionally science fiction and a few other genres) using several pseudonyms (Richard Stark was one). He’s one of only two writers who won Edgar Awards in three different categories; Best Novel (God Save the Mark), Best short story (1990): Too Many Crooks and in 1991 he won for Best Motion Picture Screenplay, The Grifters. In 1993 the Mystery Writers of America named Westlake a Grand Master (the Associations highest honor).
One of his best known books: The Hunter (which introduced one of his best known characters, master-thief Parker) was turned into the superb film: 1967’s Point Blank (with Lee Marvin) and remade in 1999 as Payback (with Mel Gibson). You’ve probably heard of The Hot Rock (a novel that was turned into a 1973 film starring Robert Redford, George Segal and Zero Mostel) which introduced one of his most popular and endearing characters John Dortmunder to the world.
God Save the Mark is Donald Westlake doing what he did best—a clever, comedic crime novel with clever plot developments, colorful characters and some surprise twists. The writing is a bit stiff-but that’s done on purpose because it fits with the character Fred Fitch. Want a quick clever very entertaining read? God Save the Mark fits the bill. Enjoy.
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