Review: Double Feature, part two – “Ordo”

Note: Donald Westlake’s 1977 collection of two novellas, Enough, was recently reprinted by Hard Case Crime as Double Feature. I have reviewed the two novellas (the other being “A Travesty”) individually.

“Ordo,” the second of two novellas in Double Feature (previously published as Enough), is an entirely different animal than opener, “A Travesty.” While “A Travesty” is nearly novel length, “Ordo” is only seventy pages or so, and while “A Travesty” fits neatly into the comic crime portion of the Westlake canon, “Ordo” is an outlier that doesn’t draw easy comparisons to his other works.

Ordo Tupikos is a sailor in the US Navy. One day, one of his fellow sailors says, “You never said you were married to Dawn Devayne.”

Dawn Devayne is a hugely popular and famous movie star, and according to the article in the magazine Ordo’s fellow shipman is reading, used to be named Estelle Anlic. Ordo was married very briefly to Estelle when he was twenty-one. Estelle had said she was nineteen, but was only sixteen. Estelle’s mother had found them, and had the marriage annulled.

Ordo is familiar with Dawn Devayne. He’s even seen a couple of her movies. But the woman on the screen was so different from the Estelle he was once married to, that he drew no association.

This throws him into a state of mental turmoil, so he cashes out his leave and goes to Hollywood to visit Dawn Devayne. She is willing to see him.

To point out the obvious from the names of the characters, Ordo represents the ordinary–he has a career, he is working towards retirement, and then he’ll get his pension and either retire or do something else. If the “de” in “Devayne” is French, she’s “of vanity.” She represents the glamour and superficiality of Hollywood that Ordo, and most of the rest of us, know little about beyond what we see or read in the entertainment press. “Ordo” is the story of what happens when these two worlds collide, when regular-Joe Ordo begins mingling in her ritzy world, and movie star Dawn Devayne is drawn, at least partially, back into the world of the rest of us.

“Ordo” is at least as much a meditation on the Hollywood life as it is a plot-driven story, and while it would be easy to imagine the comic possibilities of this setup in Westlake’s hands, it’s dead serious. Tonally, the closest comparison I can come up with in the Westlake catalog is his posthumously published Memory (which I have not written a review of yet). It’s a sad, human tale, and it’s easy to see why it was packaged with something more typical of the Westlake brand, not to mention more lighthearted.

Cover of Double Feature by Donald Westlake

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