Forever and a Death

Forever And A Death – Donald Westlake

Business tycoon Richard Curtis, alongside engineer George Manville, develops a new and efficient process of demolition.  Using a deserted island as a test subject, complications arise when a diver from a rival environmentalist organization attempting to stop the process is believed to be killed during the explosions.  Her body eventually lands on Curtis’ boat, barely clinging to life.  Believing that she will cause more trouble than she’s worth should she awake, Curtis orders her to be killed.  Manville doesn’t agree with this and the rift between the two sets off a chain reaction that threatens Curtis’ goals of using his new destructive invention for profit and revenge.

In the 1990s, author Donald Westlake was hired by the producers of the James Bond franchise to write a script for the follow-up to the 1995 entry Goldeneye (great N64 game, by the way).  Ultimately, the producers decided to go in another direction and rather than let the idea find the bottom of a trash can, Westlake altered it enough so that it would resemble an original story.  For whatever reason, Westlake decided not to publish it during his lifetime.  About a decade after his death, acclaimed publisher Hard Case Crime unearthed the novel and released it into the wild.

If you didn’t tell me this was a Bond script, I wouldn’t have known.  Is that a good thing?  I guess so.  At least in terms of Hard Case releasing this without studio interference, anyway.  For the most part, I found this book painfully dull.  I didn’t find any of the characters the slightest bit memorable or interesting as they all seemingly served as exposition to move the plot forward.  Speaking of the plot, it definitely fits within a Bond film.  I liked Curtis’ evil plan and the way in which he intended to execute it.  It’s too bad I didn’t really find him that interesting as a villain.

The novel’s saving grace was the last fifty pages when the action threatens to boil over a simmering pot.  I honestly couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.  It reads like a pure popcorn action flick featuring gun battles and a race against time.  However, it’s hard to recommend a four-hundred plus page book if I’m only going to hype the last fifty pages.

I’ve read my fair share of Hard Case books and this is the one I’ve enjoyed the least, I believe.  It is surprising considering I enjoy Westlake’s work as Richard Stark quite a bit through his Parker novels.  I think if this had been shorter, it might have scored more points with me.  Those first hundred pages were a real slog to get through.  They can’t all be winners though.

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