Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Hot Rock


Donald E. Westlake wrote fourteen novels featuring John Dortmunder and his gang of hard-luck thieves, and I adore all of them. A new Dortmunder was a cause of celebration, rejoining the familiar characters and settings, such as the back room of the O.J. Bar and Grill, where horrible Amsterdam Liquor Store Bourbon, “Our Own Brand!” is served, where the capers are planned, where the regulars at the bar are always arguing about one thing or another, each and every one of them totally wrong in every detail.

This was the first book. Five of the novels have been made into movies, and all of them suck except this one. And it’s strange, because Robert Redford is nothing like Dortmunder in appearance. But it works because the character is right. It is amazingly faithful to the book, wherein the guys have to steal the same gem five times. Here they eliminate one theft, probably for time considerations. The changes that were made all work, such as making the rock a big diamond instead of a big emerald. People understand diamonds better than they do emeralds. Westlake must have liked the changes, because he dedicated the next Dortmunder, Bank Shot, to William Goldman, who wrote the script. I just love this movie. If you like comic capers, you can’t do better than this.