Hard Case revives a pair of movie-related novellas originally published under the cryptic title Enough in 1977.
A Travesty, the first and longer of these stories, opens with movie reviewer Carey Thorpe standing over the dead body of actress Laura Penney, the lover with whom his quarrel had suddenly and fatally escalated. Even though her death was technically an accident, Carey, who doesn’t want anyone connecting him with it, immediately begins concealing all indications that he was ever in her apartment. It’s all for naught: Soon he finds himself blackmailed by private detective John Edgarson and having to commit another felony to satisfy his demands. From that point on, his dilemma rapidly spirals into one of the comic nightmares in which Westlake (Brothers Keepers, 1975/2019, etc.) specialized: Moments in which he’s threatened with exposure alternate with long intervals in which NYPD DS Al Bray and especially DS Fred Staples, who’ve decided that he’s innocent, take Carey under their wings, marveling at his ability to solve murders committed by other people; then he caps his transgressions by taking Staples’ wife, Patricia, to bed. The second novella, Ordo, couldn’t be more different. The naval mates of Ordo Tupikos, a deeply ordinary San Diego sailor, tell him that Estelle Anlic, the woman whose marriage to him was annulled years ago when the courts, egged on by her mother, discovered that she was underage, has transformed herself into movie star Dawn Devayne. Against all odds, he manages to reintroduce himself to Estelle, or Dawn, but although her agent plays it as a storybook reunion, Orry just can’t find Estelle in Dawn, who’s changed a lot more than he has, and the tale ends on a note of sad resignation.
Neither story is anywhere near Westlake’s best work, but they still make a terrific tragicomic pair.