I was looking up information on Westlake, independent of this book, and the bibliography on his still living website listed this as Westlake's first published novel. Cutie is an enjoyable read but nothing fantastic unlike all the Parker novels. I'm always surprised at how damn good those Stark penned novels are.
Clay is a the right hand man for NYC crime lord Ed Genolese. Clay is in bed with his girlfriend in the middle of the night when a knock on his door comes from a junkie and small-time drug dealer from Genolese's organization. The junkie is wanted for murder of a rich guy's girlfriend. Clay would usually arrange an "accident" for the junkie to solve the problem but the junkie has friends in high crime places. The junkie ups and leaves and Clay is assigned to find him.
Clay plays investigator while fending off the cops, dealing with his girlfriend who now knows the full extent of Clay's work, negotiating with the dead girl's sugar daddy, and fighting fatigue from his lack of sleep.
While I was looking up Westlake I ran across an online memorial commentary by some dude. Online Dude wrote that one of his favorite things about Westlake was his straightforward dealing with characters and story and the lack of sentimentality in his writing. You can see that here in what is (according to that online bib.) his first novel. Clay is a crook and hired killer. Clay's job is to keep the whores, pimps, drug dealers, extortionists, and crooked union bosses all smoothly working and bringing in money. Clay does not deny this to himself and the novel's moral quandary comes when his girlfriend is deciding whether to stay with him or not. Clay likes his job and the status and power it provides. Clay sees a future with his gal but he does not want to be a two faced guy with a house and the suburbs and a job in the gutter.
Anyway. Clay investigates. Clay hunts for junkie. Clay finds possible suspects for the real murderer. Clay goes to jail. Clay bones his girlfriend. Clay drives his Mercedes around. Clay solves the case. Clay executes the real killer. Novel ends with Clay wondering if his time is up with Genolese.
1. Westlake sure did love .32 caliber revolvers. Both Clay and Parker carry them.