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361 (1962)

by Donald E. Westlake

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4241446,507 (3.62)7
The men in the tan-and-cream Chrysler came with guns blazing. When Ray Kelly woke up in the hospital, it was a month later, he was missing an eye, and his father was dead. Then things started to get bad. From the mind of the incomparable Donald E. Westlake comes a devastating story of betrayal and revenge, an exploration of the limits of family loyalty and how far a man will go when everything he loves is taken from him.… (more)
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» See also 7 mentions

English (13)  French (1)  All languages (14)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Not terrible but unremarkable. A few good lines, but but as tightly-wound as The Cutie and not nearly as good as any of the Parker novels. ( )
  Stubb | Aug 28, 2018 |
It was the third book published under the Donald Westlake name with the first two being, The Mercenaries and Killing Time. It was first published in 1962 by Random House and more recently republished by Hard Case. Westlake himself has described the book as the "first one in which [he] did any experimenting." He wrote it with an eye towards the writing of Dashiell Hammett, Vladimir Nabokov, and Peter Rabe and he wanted to make the reader feel emotion in a scene without describing it directly.

This novel feels very different from any other Westlake novel that I have so far read. It does not have the humor found in his later novels. But, it is firmly planted in the hardboiled tradition of the fifties pulp novels and I enjoyed it for that reason. It is dark in nature and in pretty much every scene the reader can feel dark angry storm clouds in the distance.


The book opens with the narrator, Ray Kelly, finishing his stint in the Air Force and getting ready to enter civilian life. He just spent several years on duty in Germany. He walks out of the Air Force Base in Brooklyn, not far from Coney Island, and boards a bus. When "another guy with two suitcases came on," they avoided "looking at one another. I'd never seen him before, but he was another new civvy. We acted like we'd both just been circumcised and if we talked to each other everybody would know." What a great opening. With just a few paragraphs, Westlake places the character in time and place and mood. And, there's that matter of fact regular-joe tone from the narrator that continues throughout the book.

Ray is going to see his father and his brother's wife (who he has never met). He meets his father at a hotel in Manhattan. When they met, they "cried like a couple of women, and kept punching each other to prove we were men." Ray wants to go get a beer and his father is reluctant to even leave the hotel. Ray figures that dad is just tired from the drive and the heat. Dad then wanted to go right back to the room again and get some sleep for the next day's drive to Binghamton where they lived. But, after Ray's insistence, they go out and look at Times Square and Ray is disappointed because he expected it to be unique like Munich was unique.

There's an interesting clue as to the time period when they get in the car the next day and Ray's father shows off that the car has power windows and an air conditioner. As they head towards Binghamton, a tan-and-cream Chrysler pulls up next to them and the guy on their side stuck out his hand with a gun and just started shooting. Ray wakes up days later minus an eye and with his ankles completely battered so he always walked with a limp. Dad needs to be buried.

Ray and his brother Bill decide that the locals are not going to get to the bottom of this and start investigating. They find that dear old dad twenty years earlier when they lived in NYC had been somehow affiliated with mobsters. These two innocents stumble around interviewing old law partners and try to figure out who had their father killed. They are out for vengeance and nothing better get in their way. In the course of their investigation, they stumble on some family secrets and are involved in a huge mob war between warring factions.

This is a tough-nosed mobster type story. It feels like many of the mob stories of the fifties. Go ahead and read it. ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
4.5 stars - Some of the characters from [The Cutie] reappear here. More double crosses and a wonderful anti-hero. Again, we're left with questions and wanting to know what comes next. Tight crime writing. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 10, 2016 |
"He'd lost everything - except his eye for vengeance". - from the cover.

.361 (Destruction of life; violent death.) Killing. - Roget's Thesaurus of Words and Phrases

This was a good read! Ray Kelly gets out of the Air Force, reunites with his father, and then watches him get murdered. Ray joins with his brother to find the killer(s) and make them pay! Tough guy 'till the end! Lots of good twists and turns in this one, right up 'till the end! I actually said "oh no!" out loud at one of the plot twists, something I haven't done in a long time! Good, satisfying ending too! ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | Feb 20, 2015 |
Maybe a bit more than 3 stars overall, but I had to subtract part of a star for ... **** SEE BELOW FOR A BIT OF SPOILER **** ... well, call it a terrible gaff. It's one of those little things that takes a fairly believable story & partially ruins it for me.

Otherwise, the story was very good. Believable characters & motivations. The action was great. Very gritty & the ending was super. One of the better HCC books.




****A BIT OF SPOILER ****


... a scoped rifle shot with a gun that had just been purchased from a sporting goods store & was never sighted in. The whole book had been leading up to this shot. It was a HUGE deal, but our hero doesn't even try to sight it in or test it first.

(If I missed where he did, please let me know. This really hurt the book for me.) ( )
  jimmaclachlan | Jun 19, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Donald E. Westlakeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Farrell, R. B.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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.361 (Destruction of life; violent death.) Killing. 
ROGET'S THESAURUS OF WORDS AND PHRASES
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To Fred and Joanne and Nedra
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I got off the plane at Maguire, and sent a telegram to my dad from the terminal before they loaded us into buses.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The men in the tan-and-cream Chrysler came with guns blazing. When Ray Kelly woke up in the hospital, it was a month later, he was missing an eye, and his father was dead. Then things started to get bad. From the mind of the incomparable Donald E. Westlake comes a devastating story of betrayal and revenge, an exploration of the limits of family loyalty and how far a man will go when everything he loves is taken from him.

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