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