Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review: Forever and a Death

Forever and a Death Forever and a Death by Donald E. Westlake
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When engineer George Manville invented a way to create a soliton wave that would destroy buildings build atop landfill, Richard Curtis, his employer, was pleased beyond measure. However, a woman's near-death during the initial test and Curtis' reaction to it has put them at odds. Can Manville stop Curtis before he uses the process against its true target?

I've read 70-something books in the Hard Case Crime Series and I'm a fan of Donald Westlake so this one was an easy grab when the fine folks at Titan offered it to me.

Crafted from a rejected James Bond script Westlake wrote a few years before his death, Forever and a Death is a posthumous publication, what may be the last from Donald Westlake. It's also not a bad read.

The James Bond roots of Forever and a Death are fairly visible in the action, the international intrigue, and in the general plot. Isn't a billionaire with a doomsday device a Bond staple? The violence is Stark at times (get it?) and Westlake has always been able to weave a yarn together. The soliton wave is suitably Bond-esque without being completely ridiculous. Although I wonder why it took most of the characters so long to figure out where Curtis was planning to strike.

Richard Curtis, millionaire villain, was by far the most interesting character in the book. Therein lies my problem with the whole book. When you take James Bond out of the story, what do you have? George Manville is pretty good at dealing out violence for someone who is an engineer but he clearly lacks the charisma of 007. Manville gets lost in an ensemble cast of more interesting characters, like Jerry Diedrich, the environmentalist nursing a secret grudge against Curtis, or even Colin Bennett, Curtis' henchman carrying around secrets of his own.

Forever and a Death is my favorite posthumous Westlake so far and a fun read but I couldn't help wondering how it would have played as a James Bond film. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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  1. The magazine MI6 Confidential published an article on the Westlake/Bond story treatments. This is a shorter piece by the same author that gets into the similarities between the treatments and novel:

  2. Sounds like the secondary characters definitely made themselves primary compared to the protag. ;)