Monday, 1 January 2018 – pages 182-351 in Donald Westlake’s The Comedy is Finished

IMG_0645On a frigid New Year’s Day, I spent a lot of time finishing Donald Westlake’s The Comedy is Finished while watching the college games with the sound turned down. I enjoyed the book, but – as with so many suspense novels – the set up was better than the resolution. I give The Comedy is Finished 7 out of 10. 

Cast of Characters

Westlake’s novel concerns a group of five 1960s radicals who kidnap an over-the-hill comedian named Koo Davis. Westlake develops his characters well. The reader knows each of the five kidnappers & many of the law enforcement officers.


Back cover

Davis is s flawed man, who abandoned his family to chase show business glory. Still, the reader likes Davis’ self-deprecating humor, which brings to mind Bob Uecker (the former baseball player turned actor in the TV series Mr. Belvedere). 

As I noted in yesterday’s blog, Westlake does less well with Lynsey Rayne, Davis’ manager. Rayne often intimidates the police. For instance, she forces them to include her as they storm a house filled with armed terrorists. This is completely implausible.

Similarly, Mike Wiskiel is an FBI agent whose career is on the downswing after he got involved in the Watergate affair. He’s bumbling. Together, Rayne and Wiskiel form the “smart-woman, dumb-man” combination that is one of the most-shopworn canards in late-20th century literature.

Final Thoughts


Front flap

It took me too long to get to the end of The Comedy is Finished. I probably tried to read too much in one day (knowing that I had to get the book back to the library). Still, sometimes less actually is more. Westlake could have streamlined this one a bit and improved it.

In the end, there might be a too many characters. Westlake does much of his character development in the book’s second half. It’s an interesting strategy, but the pacing in the book is uneven, with a few dead spots.IMG_0648

The Comedy is Finished is worth reading. But I wouldn’t make a point of searching it out.


About mobilemojoman

I have been a Mobile resident for about a decade. Working as a college professor keeps me off the streets and pays the bills. I am married to a woman (the MojoWoman) who is a much better person than I am and we have two beautiful girls who keep us both jumping. My interests are varied - food & drink, sports, politics, exercise, books, travel, Mardi Gras, and all of life's rich pageant. In the future, I'd like to learn more about sailing, photography, Cajun/Creole cooking, making beer and wine, and writing.
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