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Put a Lid on It
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446612057, Mass Market Paperback)Penzler Pick, April 2002: According to his publisher's statistics, the peerless Donald E. Westlake, who has made his mark both with witty capers and with gritty noir thrillers, has more than a million copies of his Mysterious Press books in print, as well as more than a million copies of his many titles in print around the world. And I'd like to go on record as saying that he deserves every bit of that success. This is a case of an immensely talented author getting his due, with the vast (and, alas, sometimes taste-impaired) reading public revealing a great discernment.
Westlake has been well and truly acknowledged by his peers over the more than four decades of his career, having, among other honors, been named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, been the recipient of the Bouchercon Lifetime Achievement Award, and been nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay of The Grifters.
His latest book, Put a Lid on It, is a far cry from his recent throat-grippers (The Hook, The Ax) and also different from his recent revivals of his earlier cold-blooded/hard-boiled Parker series (Firebreak , Flashfire) written under his Richard Stark pseudonym. It is closest in tone to his Dortmunder titles (most recently, Bad News), but it introduces a different sort of thief than the protagonist who is featured in The Hot Rock, Bank Shot, and others. Meehan, the hero of Put a Lid on It, like any other Westlake lead character, is a one-name kind of guy and is as recognizably a Westlake creation as if he were branded with a giant "W."
Smart as he is, though, Meehan wouldn't be a Westlake hero if bad luck were unknown to him. When we first encounter him, he's sitting in jail in the Manhattan Correctional Center, denied parole and stoically awaiting sentencing. Out of the blue, a chance to alter his fate presents itself when a clandestinely dispatched representative of the president's reelection campaign presents himself as Meehan's potential savior.
All Meehan has to do is come up with a workable plan to steal a hideously incriminating videotape from the upstate-New York estate of a wacko millionaire. He must find the appropriate accomplices to help him and so forth... while the clock is furiously ticking.
Fans of such sophisticated political farce as Larry Beinhart's American Hero (transferred to the screen as Wag the Dog) or Joe Klein's (a.k.a. Anonymous) Primary Colors will enjoy the twisted application of Westlake's merry cynicism to the idea of the bungled high-level cover-up. They will admire, as well, his long-perfected ability to blend incredible smartness with an ever entertaining degree of smart-aleck impudence. More Meehan, please. And more Westlake, too, for as long as he can tap the keys of the old portable typewriter on which he still works. --Otto Penzler
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 14 Feb 2013 13:57:48 -0500)
"Francis Xavier Meehan (Meehan to his friends, "Halt!" to the cops) has ten thousand rules to live by, but only one way to make a living: stealing. Then a man in a checked jacket from Washington comes to meet Meehan in the Manhattan Correctional Center with an offer Meehan cannot refuse." "For somewhere out there is an October Surprise that may dethrone the sitting president of the United States. The Washington man wants Meehan to steal the incriminating evidence and keep the president's secret in the dark. What Meehan gets out of the deal is his freedom - and maybe a little something on the side. What the president gets is another term in the White House - instead of one in jail."."Yet on the plane ride down to meet more guys from Washington (but with better suits), the well-thought-out plan begins to unravel. The problem Meehan faces is that no one in Washington can keep a lip buttoned - and a bunch of politicos, spies, and thugs are leaking trouble his way. Suddenly it seems that Meehan's mission is about to go the way of Watergate. There's only one difference: This time they chose the right guy for the job. Hail to the thief!"--BOOK JACKET.
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