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The Road to Ruin

The Road to Ruin

1.7 4
by Donald E. Westlake

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The con is on. the mark is Monroe Hall, a corrupt CEO who lavished more of his company's money on himself than the boys at Enron and WorldCom combined. The loot? A fleet of vintage automobiles that would leave the Sultan of Brunei blushing. The catch? Trying to outsmart a collection of angry union men who've been taken for a ride and blue-blooded suckers who've been


The con is on. the mark is Monroe Hall, a corrupt CEO who lavished more of his company's money on himself than the boys at Enron and WorldCom combined. The loot? A fleet of vintage automobiles that would leave the Sultan of Brunei blushing. The catch? Trying to outsmart a collection of angry union men who've been taken for a ride and blue-blooded suckers who've been taken for their family fortunes. But if Dortmunder and his merry band of crooks are to drive off with the loot, they'll have to act fast - before they get caught in a deadly crossfire.

Editorial Reviews

Dennis Deabelle
The majestic lack of success of all these would-be villains produces some broad comedy at everyone's expense, from Dortmunder himself to Hall and the frustrated investors seeking revenge and recompense. The story might be light as a helium balloon, but it stays aloft on the currents of Westlake's benign humor.
The Washington Post
The New York Times
Ingenuity fuels the plot, but what puts the match to the comedy is the moral outrage of the furiously funny characters. — Marilyn Stasio
Publishers Weekly
In this boisterous 11th outing (after 2001's Bad News) featuring John Dortmunder, Westlake's hapless crook and his gang decide to hire on as live-in staff to a wealthy corporate crook as a way to get access to, and ultimately steal, his collection of antique cars. Then things start to crumble, as they tend to do around Dortmunder. Not his fault, of course. Who could know that three other sets of people are also plotting revenge on this same crook? Or that these other bozos would kidnap the crook, thereby bringing the police onto the scene just at the wrong time? And who could have predicted that Dortmunder would be kidnapped right along with the boss? The only thing we know for sure is, it's all funny. Nobody does comic capers better than Westlake. This one unfolds with such cinematic energy that we don't so much read it as watch while the players race around the countryside and almost bang into each other. Sparkling droplets of Westlake wit abound: a fence named Honest Irving, a small Pennsylvania town named Shickshinny, a security guard named Mort Pessle and Dortmunder's gargantuan pal Tiny, who "didn't so much sit in an automobile as wear it." Almost everyone comes out at the end with dignity and limbs intact, but with no loot. The good news for readers is that Dortmunder is free to try again another day. (Apr. 21) FYI: A Dortmunder story collection, Thieves' Dozen (Forecasts, Mar. 8), is being released simultaneously. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Can you believe John Dortmunder and his wayward cronies (Bad News, 2001, etc.) actually doing an honest day's work and getting paid for it?Here's the plan. They'll hire on as butler (Dortmunder), private secretary (Andy Kelp), security guard (Tiny Belcher), and chauffeur (Stan Murch) to Monroe Hall, who can't keep staff now that he's been caught embezzling from stock investors, depleting union pension funds, etc. Once employed, they'll hijack Monroe's multimillion-dollar antique auto collection. But the problem of how to get the cars off the estate without anyone noticing is further complicated by Mac, Buddy, and Ace, out to avenge the union losses, who plan to kidnap Monroe and demand ransom. Add bilked investors Mark Sterling and Oz Faulk, who also plan to kidnap Monroe until he gives them the password to his offshore bank account, and Dortmunder and the boys won't have an easy time of it, even before Monroe's personal trainer, irate at his employer for reasons best known to the IRS, joins forces with the union trio and the investors. Before Dortmunder and his gang can set their heist in action, Monroe and Dortmunder the butler are kidnapped. Oops, there's also an assassin running loose. If you think he's after Dortmunder, you're almost right. Not quite the funniest of Dortmunder's capers, but worthwhile if only to eavesdrop on the drinkers at the O.J. Bar & Grill as they resolve the issue of global warming.

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
John Dortmunder Series , #11
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
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File size:
857 KB

Read an Excerpt

The Road to Ruin

By Donald E. Westlake

Warner Books

Copyright © 2004 Donald E. Westlake
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-89296-801-X

Chapter One

DORTMUNDER SAT IN HIS living room to watch the local evening news, and had just about come to the conclusion that every multiple-dwelling residence in the state of New Jersey would eventually burn to the ground, three per news cycle, when the doorbell rang. He looked up, surprised, not expecting anybody, and then became doubly surprised when he realized it had not been the familiar blatt of the hall doorbell right upstairs here, but the never-hearding of the street-level bell, sounding in the kitchen.

Rising, he left the living room and stepped out to the hall, to see May looking down at him from the kitchen, her hands full of today's gleanings from her job at Safeway as she said, "Who is it?"

"Not this bell," he told her, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder at the hall door. "The street bell." "The street bell?"

Dortmunder clomped on back to the kitchen, to the intercom on the wall there that had never worked, that the landlord had just repaired in a blatant ploy to raise the rent. Not sure of the etiquette or operation of this piece of machinery, for so long on the inactive list, he leaned his lips close to the mouthpiece and said, "Yar?"

"It's Andy," said a voice that sounded like Andy being imitated by a talking car.


May said, "Let him in, John."

"Oh, yeah." Dortmunder pressed the white bone button, and yet another unpleasant sound bounced around the kitchen.

"Will wonders never cease," May said, because Andy Kelp, who was occasionally Dortmunder's associate in certain enterprises, usually just walked on into their place, having enjoyed the opportunity to hone his lockpicking skills.

Dortmunder said, "What if he rings this one up here, too?" "He might," May said. "You never know."

"It's an awful sound," Dortmunder said, and went down the hall to prevent this by opening the door, where he could listen to the echoes as Andy Kelp thudded up the stairs. When the thuds stopped, he leaned out to see Kelp himself, a sharp-nosed cheerful guy dressed casually in blacks and dark grays, come down the worn carpet in the hall.

"You rang the bell," Dortmunder reminded him-not quite an accusation.

Kelp grinned and shrugged. "Respect your privacy." What an idea. "Sure," Dortmunder said. "Comonin." They started down the hall and May, in the kitchen doorway, said, "That was very nice, Andy. Thoughtful."

"Harya, May." "You want a beer?" "Couldn't hurt." "I'll bring them."

Dortmunder and Kelp went into the living room, found seats, and Dortmunder said, "What's up?"

"Oh, not much." Kelp looked around the living room. "We haven't talked for a while, is all. No new acquisitions, I see." "No, we still like the old acquisitions."

"So," Kelp said, crossing his legs, getting comfortable, "how you been keeping yourself?"

"May's been keeping me," Dortmunder told him. "she's still got the job at the Safeway, so we eat."

"I figured," Kelp said, "you didn't call for a while, probly you didn't have any little scores in mind."

"Probly." "I mean," Kelp said, "if you did have a little score in mind, you'd call me."

"Unless it was a single-o." Kelp looked interested. "You had any single-os?" "As a matter of fact," Dortmunder said, as May came in with three cans of beer, "no."

May distributed the beer, settled into her own chair, and said, "So, Andy, what brings you here?"

"He wants to know," Dortmunder said, "have I been working without him, maybe with some other guys." "Aw, naw," Kelp said, casually waving the beer can. "You wouldn't do that, John."

Dortmunder drank some beer, in lieu of having something to say.

May said, "What about you, Andy? Anything on the horizon?" "Well, there is one little remote possibility," Kelp said, which of course would be the other reason he'd happened to drop by. "I don't know if John'd be interested."

Dortmunder kept the beer can up to his face, as though drinking, while May said, "What wouldn't he like about it?" "Well, it's in New Jersey."

Dortmunder put the beer can down. "They got a lotta domestic fires in New Jersey," he said. "I was just noticing on the news."

"Family feared lost?" Kelp nodded. "I seen that sometimes. No, this is one of those big box superstores, Speedshop." "Oh, that," Dortmunder said.

Kelp said, "I know you had your troubles with that store in the past, but the thing is, they're having this giant television sale."

"Got one," Dortmunder said, pointing at it. (He'd turned it off when all the bell-ringing started.)

"Well, here's my thinking," Kelp said. "If they're gonna have a giant sale on these things, it stands to reason they're gonna have a bunch of them on hand."

"That's right," May said. "To fill the demand."

"Exactly," Kelp said to May, and to Dortmunder he said, "I happen to know where there's an empty semi we could borrow." "You're talking," Dortmunder said, "about lifting and carrying a whole lot of television sets. Heavy television sets." "Not that heavy," Kelp said. "And it'll be worth it. You see, I also happen to know a guy out on the Island, recently opened up a great big discount appliance store out there, Honest Irving, not one item in the store is from the usual channels, he'll take everything off our hands but the semi, and I might have a guy for that, too."

"Honest Irving," Dortmunder said. "His stuff is just as good as everybody else's," Kelp assured him, "same quality, great prices, only maybe you shouldn't try to take the manufacturer up on the warranty."

"Speedshop," Dortmunder said, remembering his own after-hours visit to that place. "They got a lotta security there." "For a couple guys like us?" Kelp spread his hands to show how easy it would be, and the phone rang.

"I'll get it," May said. She stood, left her beer behind, and headed for the kitchen, as the phone rang again.

"I know I'm wasting my breath," Kelp said, "but what a help for May it could be, I give you a nice little extension phone in here."

"No, thank you." "One phone in an entire apartment," Kelp said, and shook his head. "And not even cordless. You take back-to-basics a little too far back, John."

"I also don't think," Dortmunder said, "I wanna buck Speedshop, not again. I mean, even before the question of Honest Irving."

Kelp said, "Where's a question about Honest Irving?" "The day will come, an operation like that," Dortmunder said, "all of a sudden you've got this massive police presence in the store, cops looking at serial numbers, wanting bills of sale, all this paperwork, and whadaya think the odds are, we're there unloading television sets when it happens?"

"A thousand to one," Kelp said. "Yeah? I make it even money," Dortmunder said, and May came in, looking worried. He looked at her. "What's up?" "That was Anne Marie," she said, referring to Kelp's live-in friend. "She says there's a guy in the apartment, says he wants to see Andy, just waltzed in, won't give a name, just sits there. Anne Marie doesn't like it."

"Neither do I," Kelp said, getting to his feet. "I better go." "John will go with you," May said.

There was a little silence as Dortmunder reached for his beer can. He lifted his eyes, and they were both looking at him. "Uh," he said, and put the beer can down again. "Well, naturally," he said, and got to his feet.


Excerpted from The Road to Ruin by Donald E. Westlake Copyright © 2004 by Donald E. Westlake . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Donald Edwin Westlake (1933-2008) was an American author of numerous bestselling novels and nonfiction books under his own name and many pseudonyms. Best known for his mystery novels including the Dortmunder series, he also wrote screenplays, including the script for The Grifters which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. He won the Edgar award three times in three separate categories and in 1993 was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.

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The Road to Ruin (John Dortmunder Series #11) 1.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story is a reasonably good Dortmunder story, but the reading by William Dufris is hands-down awful. While he tries to give each character a distinctive voice, he doesn't maintain that voice - meaning that it becomes impossible to keep track of who's talking. (Also, there's this distracting mystery: Why does Anne Marie, a Kansas native, talk with a deep-south Georgia peach accent?) Worse yet, he tries to be funnier than the material, really hamming it up. This book deserves someone better than Bob the Builder as a narrator...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I looked up Grand Theft auto and got this crap
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you're new to the Dortmunder series, don't read this book. If you've been a fan for years, don't read this book. The ' caper' doesn't start until 2/3 thru the book, then goes nowhere. Very disappointing.