Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

A Slight Case of Murder


Donald E. Westlake was one of the best writers who ever lived. Not just one of the best at hard-boiled crime (under his pen name of Richard Stark), not just the best comic writer ever, with his John Dortmunder series and others. One of the best writers, period. He had a fair number of his stories made into movies, and almost always they fucked it up. Of the Dortmunders, at least six movies were made, and all of them pretty much stink except the first, The Hot Rock, which had a very faithful screenplay by William Goldman. In spite of the completely wrong casting of Robert Redford, they made it work because they stuck to the story. And that is the secret of making a good movie out of a Westlake. Stick to the story! So simple, and yet so hard for the simpletons of Hollywood. Nobody, but nobody was better at plot complications and ingenious ideas. Dortmunder once stole a bank. Not robbed it, stole it! Hooked up a trailer hitch to it and drove it away! And they made it into a pretty bad movie, Bank Shot. So all praise to William H. Macy and his co-writer, Steven Schachter, for sticking exactly to the novella on which it was based (which was called, I think, “A Travesty.”) This is a sweet little gem, well worth your time. And as usual with a Westlake story, you will never guess how it ends.