Critically acclaimed for his recent bestseller, "The Ax, " Westlake returns with a tale of twisted psychological suspense involving two cunning authors--and one deadly proposition.
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Mystery grand master Donald Westlake (who also writes under the name Richard Stark) is nothing if not prolific: his publishing career includes juveniles, westerns, and short stories. He is perhaps best known by mystery enthusiasts for his comic crime novels (Smoke, Baby, Would I Lie?, Trust Me on This) and his Dortmunder series (What's the Worst That Could Happen?, Don't Ask, Drowned Hopes). The Hook, however, moves beyond the machinations and deduction-driven plots of traditional mystery, following the path Westlake spearheaded with The Ax into the twisted labyrinth of psychological suspense. The Hook is a harrowing story, told with a crisp incisiveness, and its riveting central characters are extraordinary: Bryce Proctorr and Wayne Prentice are fascinating, compelling tangles of neuroses and ambitions, both wonderfully drawn.
Bryce Proctorr has a multi-million dollar contract for his next novel, a wife who is trying to extract the last pound of flesh (but money will do just as well) from him in an ugly divorce, a fast-approaching deadline, and a serious case of writer's block. Wayne Prentice is an author drifting ghost-like through a world that has forgotten his novels; he's gone through two pseudonyms, has watched his sales plummet, and is wondering whether the academic life might be better than this, all things considered. When the two meet by chance in the New York Library, Proctorr has a proposition: if Prentice will give him his unsold manuscript to publish under Proctorr's name, the two will split the book advance fifty-fifty. But as in all Faustian bargains, there is a significant catch: Wayne must kill Bruce's wife.
The murder itself is almost insignificant, a small and sordid endeavor. The novel's real appeal lies in its shadowy reflections of the links between the two protagonists: a bond has been created that neither can break--nor wants to. Westlake cleverly questions the boundaries between actual and vicarious experience, fact and fiction. The novel is strikingly self-referential as it plays with the irony of authors trying to "compose" their own realities: "There are moments in almost any novel when it's necessary to move a character from one point to another, so that you can go on with the story, and this was like that." But what happens when the characters, instead of dutifully obeying the wishes of their creators, strike off on their own in unanticipated and fearful directions? --Kelly FlynnAbout the Author:
DONALD E. WESTLAKE has written numerous novels over the past thirty-five years under his own name and pseudonyms, including Richard Stark. Many of his books have been made into movies, including The Hunter, which became the brilliant film noir Point Blank, and the 1999 smash hit Payback. He penned the Hollywood scripts for The Stepfather and The Grifters, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. The winner of three Edgar awards and a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, Donald E. Westlake was presented with The Eye, the Private Eye Writers of America's Lifetime Achievement Award, at the Shamus Awards. He lives with his wife, Abby Adams, in rural New York State.
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