A LIKELY STORY by Donald E. Westlake
Kirkus Star


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Look out, publishers and writers: Westlake has turned his comic gift to in-house satire here--leaving suspense behind for a savvy, merry, nasty little tale about narrator Tom Diskant, a 40-ouch writer desperately trying to make a few bucks with a Christmas Book anthology. Tom nervily sells his idea to the firm of Craig, Harry & Bourke: a fancy Yuletide book featuring great Christmas literature and illustrations from the past, plus newly commissioned stories and artwork. Famous writers are solicited, most reply--which gives Westlake a smooth opportunity to take devastating pokes at the likes of Robert Ludlum, John Leonard, Isaac Asimov (who doesn't send one piece, but one a week), William F. Buckley, Jr., Joyce Carol Oates, and John Irving. . . whose story (""about a bear whose eyes are put out by feminists on Christmas Eve"") is one of the few reject-ees. Meanwhile, however, Tom has big editor-troubles: his first editor quits; his second editor is an aging Jewish American Princess, ""attractive in an acrylic sort of way,"" with whom Tom semi-reluctantly establishes a sexual liaison; and then, when she quits, the book is handed over to a space cadet right out of college who, without asking, adds heavy-metal illustrations. (""I want to do adult books, but with the zing and zip of juveniles!"") Not enough troubles? Well, Tom also has problems on the domestic front--living with girlfriend Ginger (and her kids) but still being pursued by estranged wife Mary, who woos Tom back with kid-problems and somber, lurid tales of her new sexual vulnerability. (""We've reached the point now where every time she sees me she has another sexual encounter to describe, with friend or stranger. She can't take a subway without some man rubbing an erection against her."") And it all ends with Tom in disastrous straits--a printing strike, a plagiarism lawsuit, ""a tenuous handhold on the lower rung of an imbecile industry""--but surprisingly cheerful. A little thin? Yes, perhaps. Bad-tempered? A bit. But, with additional digs along the way at Mother's Day, Labor Day, Cosmo, and Publishers Weekly (""the Junior Scholastic of this tiny world""), this is the wickedest, most steadily amusing attack on the everyday publishing world in quite some time--with that reliable Westlake charm keeping everything appropriately easygoing and unpretentious.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1984
Publisher: Mysterious Press--dist. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux