A Mexican Parker Movie?: The Curious Case of The Getaway Face (“Una cara para escapar”)

Una cara para escapar lobby card

As some of you frustrated readers know, I’ve never understood the appeal of Twitter, so while I do use it to inform people of new posts here and link the occasional interesting article, I don’t check the @worldofparker account regularly.

But, fortunately, I did a couple of weeks ago, where I found that I had a mention in a post by John Cribb (@TheLastMachine), who blogs at The Pink Smoke.

He was pointing to this entry at the Internet Movie Database.

Una cara para escapar IMDb entry

What on earth? A Mexican film based on The Man With the Getaway Face? Was this possible?

Why, yes. It’s possible. Unauthorized adaptations of books are hardly unheard of—you are probably familiar with the Dracula/Nosferatu imbroglio. They aren’t even unheard of in regards to Donald Westlake. In 2010, I discovered that there was a possibly unauthorized Italian adaptation of Jimmy the Kid. Donald Westlake and The Sour Lemon Score receive no attribution in City of Industry.

If Una cara para escapar, which literally translates as “A Face to Escape,” is indeed a Westlake adaptation from 1963, that would make Eduardo Noriega the screen’s first Parker, as Jean-Luc Godard’s Made in U.S.A., featuring Anna Karina as “Parker,” was released 1966.

But before getting into any of that, I had to answer the question: Does this movie exist?

The above lobby card, originally from eMoviePoster.com and the only image I could find, meant the movie likely was made, but that didn’t make it 100%. Sometimes posters are created for movies in development to attract investors, but the movie doesn’t happen.

But I was able to determine that it was made. I found references to it in Spanish-language publications as part of cast members’ filmographies. In addition, it was documented by the U.S. Copyright Office as being part of a copyright restoration case.

So the movie definitely exists. (Or at least it existed. These is the possibility that it is lost.)

With that established, it was time to investigate the Parker connection.

The timing was immediately suspect. The Man With the Getaway Face was released in 1963, so if Una cara para escapar was as well, that’s a mighty quick turnaround time. But further down the IMDb entry, the release date is given as August 13, 1965. That makes it being an adaptation much more likely.

The IMDb page for Una cara para escapar was first archived by the Internet Archive in 2005. There is almost no information at this point, and there is a typo in the film’s title. The title was corrected and cast information was added later. But as of 2017, the last time the page was archived, there was no Westlake credit.

The earliest any source can be confirmed to credit Westlake is in 2020, when the film’s page at the British Film Institute was archived. Crediting Donald Westlake and The Man With the Getaway Face appears to have only happened recently, no sooner than six years ago and no later than a little over two years ago.

While perhaps interesting, this doesn’t really tell us anything. Maybe an older credit would have more credibility, maybe not. Westlake’s being credited at both IMDb and BFI doesn’t tell us anything, either. One could be the other’s source. I could simply be looking at a timewasting example of how misinformation spreads throughout the Internet.

Compounding that possibility is the fact that anyone can edit IMDb. It’s entirely possible, even likely, that some overzealous Parker fan saw the poster and saw that the film’s Spanish title could be roughly translated as “The Getaway Face,” and drew his own conclusions. I would love to ask whoever made the edits, but so far as I can tell, there is no way to determine who added the writer credit for Westlake, much less why.

Further weighing against the possibility of this being a Parker adaptation is the film’s poster. Your eyes were probably drawn to the Parker-like bandaged figure with a gun, but did you notice the Satanic ritual in the bottom right corner? That would be quite a deviation from the text.

But that doesn’t preclude the possibility that it’s in some way based on the novel. Una cara para escapar could feature a Satanic ritual and still be at least as close an adaptation of its source as Made in U.S.A.!

And that’s what I’ve got. I was certainly hoping for more, as I’m sure you were.

To sum up, the evidence of Una cara para escapar being a Parker adaptation is:

  • The timing.
  • The assumed plot.
  • That the title could be a translation of “the getaway face” portion of The Man With the Getaway Face.
  • The IMDb and BFI entries.

That isn’t much to go by.

Weighing against:

  • The recency of the Westlake attribution.
  • No attribution to Westlake beyond IMDb and BFI.
  • That anyone can edit IMDb and there is no trail to follow.
  • That, and no offense to Westlake intended, a criminal getting plastic surgery to conceal his identity is hardly an original plot element.
  • A Satanic ritual!

So what are the possibilities here? Here they are as I see them:

  • The movie has nothing to do with The Man With the Getaway Face. This is the overzealous IMDb editor scenario, and I think the most likely.
  • The movie is not an adaptation of The Man With the Getaway Face, but took some inspiration from it, possibly only from the cover of the paperback. I think this is a distinct possibility, but it’s probably impossible to prove. We could still have an overzealous editor in this scenario.
  • The movie is an unauthorized adaptation of The Man With the Getaway Face, one that took a lot of liberties with its source material. While I don’t think this is likely, I wouldn’t go so far as to call the possibility remote.
  • The movie is an authorized adaptation of The Man With the Getaway Face, one that Westlake forgot about after the check was cashed, because the movie was never released in the US and quickly faded into obscurity. I include this possibility because in one of our few correspondences, he told me that he had forgotten about the German adaptation of Jimmy the Kid, which similarly was never released in the US and is similarly obscure. But this is still the least likely possibility. Una cara para escapar would have not only been the first adaptation of a Parker novel, but the first Westlake adaptation period. Would any writer, even one as frequently adapted as Westlake, forget his first? (There is also the possibility that he did remember it, but never mentioned it or rarely mentioned it, and so no one was aware of it, including the people who write heavily-researched crime fiction reference books for libraries.)

The easiest way to resolve this would be to watch the movie, if it can be found. Can it be? Well, we found Mise à sac

Amateur sleuths, particularly Spanish-speaking sleuths, are encouraged to do their own research and report back.

Thanks to John Cribb for bringing this to my attention. His website, The Pink Smoke, hosts a couple pieces you should read:

Podcast appearance: SFFaudio on Brother and Sister

After an absence of over a decade, I return to the SFFaudio podcast to discuss Brother and Sister, a smut novel by Donald Westlake (as Edwin West) that is about exactly what it sounds like it’s about.

How did it go? Well, I never listen to podcast appearances after recording, but I didn’t have to wait another decade to be invited back this time.

I have a review of the book in draft and will try to get it posted over the next week.

Thanks to host Jesse Willis for having me. You can check it out here.

Hard Case Crime review: Call Me a Cab by Donald Westlake

Cover of Call Me a Cab by Donald Westlake


Note: Mild spoilers.

I should note up front that I am not the target market for Call Me a Cab. This posthumous novel began its published life as a novella for Redbook. It is a will-they-or-won’t-they story aimed at women, not at all the sort of thing I would pick up if it wasn’t by Donald Westlake. So it’s entirely possible that others, especially including its intended audience, will enjoy this novel more than I did.

I’m not at all confident that they will, but they may.

Call Me a Cab is the story of cab driver Thomas Fletcher and passenger Katharine Scott. Katherine has been proposed to by Barry, a successful plastic surgeon who seems like a good guy. She has been dithering about giving her answer, and she has promised that she will deliver it once she arrives in Los Angeles from New York. On the way to the airport in Tom’s cab, she comes up with an ingenious means of delaying her decision even further–instead of the flight that she had planned, she will have Tom drive her all the way across the country. She didn’t promise any particular means of getting to Los Angeles, after all.

Despite having a job that some (not me) may count as unskilled labor, Tom is a bright guy, college educated even. But he lacks ambition and is proud of that, having given up the business world to work at his father’s cab company. Katharine, on the other hand, is a successful landscape architect, which is why she can afford cross-country cab fare ($4000, or nearly $20,000 adjusted for inflation). Needless to say, she’s got beauty to match her obvious brains and drive.

This is a story of people on the road, and the things you would in general predict about it are in general the things that happen–an unusual occurrence or two, some interesting characters, car troubles at one point, sometimes our travelers get along and sometimes they don’t, and so on. Along the way, of course, they learn a few things about each other and a few things about themselves.

That Call Me a Cab largely sticks to the road adventure formula does not bother me. What bothers me is that I didn’t find most of their adventures to be interesting. At one point, Tom has to help a couple where the wife is about to give birth. This, I guess, was supposed to be funny–giving birth in a taxi cab is of course a cliché, and of course occasionally happens in real life. What Westlake was trying to do here is make a gag of this–here’s a cliché or something you read about in the papers, and it’s actually happening to Tom! The problem is that the giving-birth-in-a-taxicab vignette isn’t good enough for the gag to work. Not that’s it’s boring, but it never transcends the cliché, as Westlake clearly wanted it to do.

The reader is supposed to want Tom and Katherine to get together, but I never did. I was never sold that this couple could end up in a happy long-term relationship. I’ve seen relationships and marriages between people like Katharine and Tom. They ended in breakups or divorce. And since I liked both Katharine and Tom, I did not want them to get together when I thought they were doomed in the long term.

Some readers may say to this that I’m missing Westlake’s point, that they don’t have to live happily ever after–they can just enjoy their time together while it lasts. I get that–I just don’t find it very compelling. And, intentionally or not, Westlake precludes even the possibility of it working out long term by not having Tom grow as a character. If they are to have a chance, Tom needs to strive to be worthy of Katherine, but he ends the novel as pretty close to the same unambitious guy he was at the beginning. How long is Katharine going to put up with that? If Katharine is anything like the smart, driven women I’ve known (including the one I married), not very long.

One area where Call Me a Cab is interesting is as a cultural artifact. It takes place in 1977 and Tom (and Westlake) is grappling with feminism. Tom considers himself fairly enlightened, but he still finds navigating this new world to be treacherous on occasion–in other words, he steps in it a couple of times. Westlake handles the subject deftly–if it’s dated, I still think it gave me a vibrant picture of what it was like for men (and women) at that time. (Readers older than I am are welcome to correct me on that point.)

This is this the fourth posthumously published Donald Westlake novel, following MemoryThe Comedy is Finished, and Forever and a Death. The first two are terrific. I did not care for Forever and a Death, but it has its fans and possibly Call Me a Cab will have them as well. I’m still grateful that the latter two were published, although I hope that they aren’t too many people’s first experience with Westlake’s work.

Note: According to publisher Charles Ardai in the afterword, this is the last unpublished Donald Westlake novel. He’s said that before and been happily wrong. I have read that there is one more, entitled Ice, out there (I’ve covered this before elsewhere). We shall see!

Parker: The Martini Edition – Last Call finally released

Parker: The Martini Edition - Last Call

After being delayed for a year and a half, the second volume of Parker: The Martini Edition has finally been released from IDW Publishing.

The Martini Edition – Last Call is a gorgeous, slipcased hardcover volume collecting books three and four (the final two, alas) of Darwyn Cooke’s brilliant Parker graphic novels. It ain’t cheap (MSRP $100, currently selling for $80 at Barnes & Noble and Amazon), but I think it’s worth every penny.

I don’t have a copy yet, so here’s what I know from previous press releases. It contains:

  • The Score
  • Slayground
  • More than 100 pieces of never-before-seen Parker art by Darwyn Cooke
  • A roundtable talk with Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Bruce Timm, and Scott Dunbier on Parker and Darwyn Cooke
  • A brand-new 17-page story by Multiple Eisner Award-winning creators Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

I don’t think anyone will disagree with me when I say that Cooke’s comic book corpus absolutely deserves this deluxe treatment. I salute and congratulate IDW Publishing and editor Scott Dunbier for this monument to the work of a brilliant writer and artist who tragically left us far too soon.

Thanks, Darwyn.

Parker movie news and thoughts

Update: Variety describes the project as “”a series of movie and television projects adapted from Donald E. Westlake’s ‘Parker’ crime fiction series.”

Original post (slightly edited) below.


Some interesting news broke about a week ago concerning a new Parker movie project. Here is as much as we know:

  • It will be directed and cowritten by Shane Black, shown above in action-figure form as his character in Predator, because why not?
  • Anthony Bagarozzi, Black’s cowriter on The Nice Guys (which I loved), will be the other cowriter.
  • It will star Robert Downey, Jr., who previously worked with Black on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
  • Joel Silver is producing.
  • It will be from Amazon Studios.

And that’s the sum of it.

I can add a little here.

The first thing is, don’t get your hopes up.

While, given the players involved, this getting off the ground seems reasonably likely, nothing in the world of Hollywood is assured until the movie hits the screen.

Take Shane Black, for example. In the past several years he has tried to launch a Doc Savage movie, a movie based on Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir’s Destroyer series of men’s adventure novels, and an animated series based on James Mullaney’s Crag Banyon series of comic-fantasy detective novels. I looked forward to all of these, and none of them happened (although the Crag Banyon news was recent enough that I suppose that could still be happening).

Pointing this out is not meant to be disrespectful to Mr. Black. Getting this stuff off the ground is hard.

Which brings us to producer Joel Silver.

This isn’t Joel’s first rodeo with Parker. Around the turn of the millennium, his name was attached to an adaptation of The Green Eagle Score. John Travolta was rumored for the Parker role. A screenplay was written by Alexander Ignon, whose best-known credit is the Mel Gibson vehicle Ransom.

It, like Black’s Destroyer and Doc Savage projects, didn’t go anywhere.

So I’m hesitant to get too much into what I think of the whole thing when this might be the last anyone hears of it.

But I’ll do a little bit of that anyway.

I like very much that it’s Shane Black who is interested in trying to put Parker on the screen again. I’m certain he knows the books well, just as he knows Doc Savage, the Destroyer, and Crag Banyon. And I’m also certain he loves them, just as he loves same.

It doesn’t follow for me that Black’s love of the novels means, This time they’ll do Parker right! I’m not sure you can do the taciturn, amoral thief from the novels “right” on film, at least not as a series, which is what I assume is planned here. Parker works on the printed page, but maybe just doesn’t on film.

Mind you, I would love to be proven wrong on this. And I sure would like to see them at least try. But I think changes to the character are likely inevitable. I just hope they’re not too extreme.

I’ve seen in various forums that a lot of people don’t like the casting of Downey. It looks to me as if people are picturing Downey playing Parker like Downey plays Tony Stark from the Marvel films.

While I wouldn’t like that approach, I doubt that’s what’s planned and I do not share this concern about Downey in general. Downey is top-notch actor and can play, and has played, more than Iron Man. If the goal is to portray Parker as he appears in the novels, I am confident Downey can do it.

Beyond that, what can I say but, Good luck to all involved! I’m rooting for you.

The Projection Booth podcast covers Point Blank

The Projection Booth podcast logo

I’m a little late to this, but back in November 2021, Mike White of Cashiers du Cinemart magazine covered Point Blank on the Projection Booth podcast with guests Jedidiah Ayres and friend of the site Andrew Nette. Mike and I go back to before this site existed (which as a lot of you know, is a long time!), and was key to rescuing, to the extent we did, Mise à sac, the movie based on The Score.

The Projection Booth is most in-depth podcast on movies out there, so, needless to say, it’s a great discussion. Enjoy!

Episode 546: Point Blank (1967)

Final(?) Donald Westlake novel to be published: Call Me a Cab

Cover of Call Me a Cab by Donald Westlake

Big news from Hard Case Crime (via Facebook):

Now it can be told: Donald E. Westlake’s final unpublished novel — a real gem, sweet and sharp and touching and funny — is coming in February.

This is exciting news. As it happens, the unpublished Call Me a Cab was briefly touched upon here eleven years ago:

[Quoting from the Rara-Avis forum]: I know of two Westlake novels that have not seen the light of day. One an expanded version of his Redbook novella CALL ME A CAB and another entitled ICE about two brothers who inherit an ice factory from their dead father.

Everything in that post, which pulled from two different sources and also covered the novel that would be later published as The Comedy is Finished, has since come to light…except Ice. So it appears the sources knew what they were talking about.

What’s the story, then, with Ice? I do not know and will try to find out. However, I wanted to get this great news up about the bird in the hand before obsessing over the bird in the bush.

So what is Call Me a Cab? Like the excellent and similarly posthumous Memory, it is not a crime novel even though it is being published by Hard Case Crime.

In 1977, one of the world’s finest crime novelists turned his pen to suspense of a very different sort—and the results have never been published, until now.

Fans of mystery fiction have often pondered whether it would be possible to write a suspense novel without any crime at all, and in CALL ME A CAB the masterful Donald E. Westlake answered the question in his inimitable style. You won’t find any crime in these pages—but what you will find is a wonderful suspense story, about a New York City taxi driver hired to drive a beautiful woman all the way across America, from Manhattan to Los Angeles, where the biggest decision of her life is waiting to be made. It’s Westlake at his witty, thought-provoking best, and it proves that a page-turner doesn’t need to have a bomb set to go off at the end of it in order to keep sparks flying every step of the way.

I haven’t read the novella yet, so this material will be all new to me. Sounds like fun!

The Mise à sac Score: Finding the Lost Parker Movie

Well, I finally watched it. What took me so long? I’ll get to that.

The Score is the fifth of Richard Stark’s Parker novels and universally thought of as one of the series’ very best. I bet some would say that The Score is the best. It’s probably in nearly everyone’s top five, and possibly in nearly everyone’s top three.

On the page, The Score feels ready-made for a movie adaptation, and in 1967, it got one: A French film entitled Mise à sac, AKA Pillaged, Midnight Raid, Una notte per 5 rapine (One Night for 5 Robberies), and possibly more.

If Mise à sac has ever been released on video, it was once, in France, in the very early days of home video–I have a report of someone seeing the video box in France, but I have never seen the box myself. I have checked French eBay many times over the years and never seen the tape for sale. The movie was impossible to see for decades.

Now it is on YouTube.

A few people have written to tell me this. I thank you for the e-mails about it (and sorry if I never got back to you–I always mean to), but I know. I know because I’m in large part responsible for getting it there.

Well, I didn’t upload it there myself but…

I’ll explain.

When this site was in its infancy, more than twenty(!) years ago, the Internet was in its infancy as well. The whole impetus for the creation of the site was that there was almost no information about the Parker novels anywhere on the Web. You youngsters may find this hard to believe, but there was almost nothing out there at all. Can you believe this?: Wikipedia didn’t even exist!

I’ll quote myself here:

“This site started…as ‘The Parker Page,’ which was just that–one page, hosted at the now-defunct Geocities. It listed the novels in order, and the movies based on them, with a couple of pictures.

Why bother with that? Well, at the time I had to do research, including a trip or two to the University of Texas library, to get that much information, and, once I dug it up, I didn’t want others to have to work so hard. Also, I wanted to experiment with this newfangled Internet thing. So I used my rudimentary HTML knowledge and posted my research online.

The result was astonishing. A constant stream of e-mails began pouring in from Parker fans around the world, telling me bits of trivia I had not known, offering to send me hard-to-find books, hooking me up with bootlegs of Made in U.S.A. and The Split, mailing me unproduced screenplays. There was a hunger out there, and by posting one lame page on the Internet, it became my job to feed it.”

It was while doing research at the UT library that I discovered the existence of Mise à sac. I thought it was in John M. Reilly’s Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers, but I have a copy of that now and, no, it’s not in there. It must have been in another of those extraordinarily expensive reference books sold primarily to libraries.

There were few traces of the film on the Internet at the time. Mostly, it was just on IMDB with little extra information. Heck, it’s still on IMDB with little extra information. And that’s all I recall from the time.

Eventually, a little more emerged. I found images of a couple of posters, as well as a short synopsis or two in French, which revealed only that it tracked the novel fairly closely. A French reader named Miroslav who had seen the movie e-mailed with his recollection of the film (a little inaccurate, as it turns out). Later, he e-mailed me to say that the film was a French/US coproduction and that the rights were at United Artists and frozen, I believe implying that the coproduced nature of the film had unsurprisingly resulted in a rights issue.

But that was about it–for nearly fifteen years. I despaired of ever seeing it.

During this time and largely because of this site, this previously nearly-unknown movie became the Holy Grail for many Parker fans. The books came back into print, and the other film adaptations were released to DVD and sometimes even Blu-ray, but of Mise à sac, there was still little trace. There were images of posters and a few stills online. Lobby cards and other promotional materials could be found for sale online. But the film itself seemed to have vanished as completely as Parker after a successful heist.

Then, finally, a strike. In 2013, reader Adam K. sent me an e-mail. He had found someone online selling Mise à sac on iOffer, of all places. Sketchy, but what the hell. I took a chance, ordered, and actually got it. It was a transfer from videotape. It looked and sounded really rough. It was in French with no subtitles. But it was the real thing!

A problem–I don’t speak French, and neither do the vast majority of Parker readers. We would need subtitles.

Fortunately, I had an idea about how to get them.

Many years ago, I had made the acquaintance of Mike White. Mike is best known today as the host of the most in-depth podcast on movies there is, the terrific Projection Booth (which you listen to, right?) but we began way back when he published what at the time was a pamphlet-size fanzine called Cashiers du Cinemart. Although we didn’t know each other while attending (and still have never met in person), we went to the same university. His ‘zine was available at our local Tower Records. It had caught my eye, and I became a reader and fan.

A couple of years later, I had moved to Texas. I was in a “news” store–Texans from the cities know what I mean. There are fewer of them now, but there were many back then. They sold a lot of newspapers and magazines, but a whole lot more pornography. I was looking to grab something non-pornographic to read at Taco Bell or someplace while on my lunch break from my awful job, and what should I see but Cashiers du Cinemart! It had grown into a much bigger affair by then, with a glossy cover, even. Excited (not by the pornography) and happy for a slice of home, I grabbed it.

I read it cover to cover, as I always did with that excellent magazine. Then, me being me, I sent Mike an e-mail complaining about some snark in the issue regarding Shogun Assassin (from memory, “The less said about [Shogun Assassin], the better”). My complaint didn’t put him off too badly, he responded, and we struck up an e-mail friendship.

It turned out Mike was also a Parker fan, and Cashiers du Cinemart eventually ran a piece by Mike himself on the film adaptations of The Hunter (reprinted and expanded in the best-of book). Mike is a hunter himself, a champ at tracking down obscure movies (else he couldn’t have published his magazine), and knows all kinds of things about obtaining foreign films never released on video, at least in the US, that I had no clue about at the time and many things I still don’t. He had also been searching for the Mise à sac.

If anyone could get me subtitles, he could.

Mike worked his movie magic, converting the DVD to .avi and posting a file of the film to some film enthusiasts forum or website, hoping someone would be inspired to create an .srt file for it. What were those? I didn’t know back then. (An .avi is a video file and an .srt is a subtitle file.)

Eventually, Mike got a hit. Someone who goes by Djilik had created subtitles.

So now we really had it!

And now it was available on the Internet and with subtitles, if you knew where to look and could get a membership. Which was great for a few hardcore cinephiles, but didn’t do a whole lot of good for most people, including most of my readers.

But a couple of years after that, a user named A B, who has only one other video to his name, posted the film to YouTube with the subtitles.

And this is crazy: It has since racked up 236,000 views.

Yet still, up until the night before I started drafting this post, I hadn’t watched it.


Sometimes it was life getting in the way, sometimes it was an odd, personal form of laziness and procrastination. I also spent some time dealing with a health scare. (I’m 100% fine–thanks for asking!)

But some of it was because I kept hoping for better.

When I watch a movie, I watch a movie. I do my best to set things up for the most optimal viewing experience I can manage. That goes double for something I am writing a formal review of.

And, let’s face it, my videotape transfer looked and sounded like crap. It also may be cut by twelve minutes, although that may be the result of PAL to NTSC conversion and a couple of other factors not involving actual content–there is nothing to indicate obvious edits, anyway. (It’s also possible that the runtime at IMDB is incorrect, but I doubt that.)

Plus, every once in awhile, there were little signs that indicated that maybe the film would get a proper home video release. I heard from a source, possibly Miroslav again, that it had been restored. A couple of years or more later, there was a showing of the restored version at the Museum of Modern Art. (I actually considered flying to NYC for this, but I was barreling towards my wedding day at the time, so common sense and wedding-related poverty prevailed.) There were a couple of theatrical showings in France.

Darwyn Cooke’s brilliant adaptation of The Score won a ton of awards. Darwyn (who I hope got to see it before his tragic passing) touched on the film in the interview then-co-blogger Nick and I did with him and did a drawing of Michel Constantin as Parker in Parker: The Martini Edition.

Michael Constantin by Darwyn Cooke, from Parker: The Martini Edition

So it was on the radar of some prominent people, including, I would think, the people who actually control the film. Shouldn’t all that lead to a video release?

But it never happened.

So finally, after resolving to work on the site again after one of my typical hiatuses (hiati?), I fired it up, the at-least 236,001st viewer of a film that I, along with Adam K., Mike White (who I hope has come around on Shogun Assassin), and some strangers who go by Djilik and A B, had rescued from near-total obscurity.

I hadn’t really thought about it until I typed all this out, but, holy cow! I wanted to see Mise à Sac. I wanted every Parker and Donald Westlake fan to be able to see Mise à Sac. And, in whatever clunky form it happened in, it happened! And more than a quarter-million people have now watched it.

How cool is that?

(So what did I think? Review coming soon-ish.)

The Hardy Boys Meet Parker by Mike Capozzola

This post doesn’t show up well on mobile device. Click here to view the image on its own.

The Hardy Boys Meet Parker

Dan Kearney of Joe Gores’ DKA series had a crossover with Parker and vice versa in Gores’ Dead Skip and Richard Stark’s Plunder Squad.

Donald Westlake’s own Dortmunder had a crossover with Parker (sort of) in Jimmy the Kid.

Comedian and cartoonist Mike Capozzola envisions a rather different sort of crossover with his artwork for The Hardy Boys Meet Parker. As you would expect, this encounter is rather brief.

Thanks to Mike for a good laugh.

Hard Case Crime review: Castle in the Air by Donald E. Westlake (HCC-148)


When four groups of international heist artists team up to pull off the theft of the century – stealing an entire castle, and the treasure hidden in its walls – what could possibly go wrong? Well, consider this: none of the master thieves speak each other’s languages… And no one knows precisely where the loot is stashed… And every one of them wants to steal it all for him or herself. It’s MWA grand master Donald E. Westlake at his wildest, a breathless slapstick chase through the streets of Paris only one step ahead of the law – and each other.

The cover of the Hard Case Crime reprint of Castle in the Air reads, “FIRST PUBLICATION IN 40 YEARS!”

Unfortunately, there is a reason for that. Castle in the Air is a novel of mostly unrealized potential.

There are two intriguing plot elements that form the foundation of this Castle. The first element is the one that gives the novel its title–a gang of thieves is going to steal an entire castle. How, you ask? Well, this castle is being transported from the fictional South American country of Yerbadoro (even the name of the fake country isn’t very good) to Paris to be part of that country’s exhibit at an international exposition. Revolution is brewing in Yerbadoro, and el presidente knows that it is in his and the first lady’s best interest to exile themselves before they are exiled, or much worse, by others. But they can’t be expected to leave their plundered wealth behind, now can they? The expo provides an opportunity to relocate with a modest home (by castle standards) and their looted lucre, which is to be hidden in the stones of the castle. Which stones is unknown, so all of them must be absconded with.

The second element is the gang itself. For this immense task, British master thief and ringleader Eustace Dench brings on board three other master thieves from three other countries, who then recruit their own subordinates. Eustace hires the British team, with additional teams from France, Italy, and Germany.

This is to enable the primary farcical elements. The first of these is the language barrier. All of the team leaders speak English, but the subordinates from the continent do not. In addition, there is the Yerbadoroan contingent, on whose behalf this ambitious heist is allegedly being undertaken, adding Spanish to the mix of this United Nations of crime.

You can probably guess the second: With twelve thieves from four different countries, there is extraordinary potential for double-cross upon double-cross.

Let’s take these elements in order.

The theft of an entire castle sounds like a heck of a premise for a book. What it actually amounts to, however, is stealing a bunch of stone blocks. An exciting concept becomes quite pedestrian in its execution.

The gang itself, and the attempts at humor derived from its composition, face a similar fate. Trying to squeeze comedy out of the language barriers becomes quickly tiresome. Maybe this could have worked in a movie*, but on the printed page, it’s nearly as irritating to the reader as it is to the monolingual Eustace Dench.

The one element that comes closest to working, which will surprise no one reading this, is the double-crossings. Westlake’s goal here, with four primary factions of three members each, seems to be to create the most double-crossing-est book ever, with each faction crossing the others, and then the individual members of each faction crossing each other. This is the liveliest portion of the book. As you would expect, this is primarily relegated to the third act, which is somewhat of a slog to get to. It’s also far from the best work Westlake has done in this territory–again, the concept is much more promising than the execution.

This being Westlake, there are, of course, worthy moments in this unremarkable novel. A scene involving a continuous stream of visitors to the chambers of the beautiful Yerbodoroan revolutionary deserved to be in a better book. But that and a couple of others are not enough to make Castle in the Air deserving of other than a low priority spot on your Westlake TBR list.

* One of the commenters over at The Westlake Review speculates that Castle in the Air began life as a script. While there is no evidence of this so far as I know, this strikes me as quite plausible.

Castle in the Air at the official Donald Westlake site