Thursday, May 9, 2019

Old One: "Killing Time" by Donald E. Westlake

Old One: Killing Time by Donald E. Westlake, 1961, L.O.C. no. 61-6245.

The inside pages list only one other novel by Westlake, The Mercenaries. That was reprinted by Hard Case Crime in 2009 as The Cutie. According to my notes I read Cutie in 2010. I don't remember the novel and my notes are typically sparse.

Killing Time is set in a small to medium sized city in New York called Winston. Tim Smith is the local private eye and has long lasting and established working relationships with all the Winston bigwigs. All those bigwigs are also crooks. Graft is endemic and Tim is fine with that. He makes a nice living, has friends, and cruises right along through life in his home town.

Everything is swell for Tim until one morning at 1:30AM when a hitman from NYC comes into a diner and tries to kill Tim. Tim is somewhat surprised by this turn of events. The next day a representative of Citizens for Clean Government gives Tim a call. The CCG rep wants to hire Tim to help clean out corruption in Winston. Tim says: no. Tim says hell no! Tim says: sure they're all corrupt but everything runs smooth and great with little crime and nice schools and everyone's happy. (Tim is a bit of a louse himself.)

Well, the local bigwigs are worried about the CCG. The CCG has already taken down municipal crooks in a couple other towns and Winston cannot stand an honest audit. Tim is on his way to City Hall when someone within an upper story of City Hall takes a few shots at Time. Tim is concerned. Tim is angry. Tim knows only seven men knew he was walking over to the Hall so he now has a firm list of suspects.

Things move along with the usual Westlake greatness. Tim's sorta-but-not-really-girlfriend expresses terror at his plight. Tim has to figure out who is trying to kill him while the local Police Chief tries to sweep everything under the rug. The violence accelerates and creates a schism among the bigwigs. A third failed attempt on Tim leaves a local grocer dead. That grocer's large extended family is out for blood.

This Westlake novel has the sparse writing of his other books. The plot moves along. Tim is not a crook but fine with taking their money and working for crooks. Tim sacrifices others to get his way. Life is brutal and short in the second half of the book.

1. More .32 caliber handguns. Every damn book Westlake wrote must have a .32 in it.
2. I want to spell grocer as grocier.
3. I found this 1961 printing in the library's mystery section. It is in decent condition - well enough to circ - and has only circ'ed 12 times since the online records were created in 1995. The back of the book is stamped GIFT BOOK and dated July 19, 1985.

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

Alas, I think Westlake is becoming even more caviar to the general than he was during his lifetime.