About 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.
Read an Excerpt
From the circumstances, Dortmunder would say it was a missing-heir scam. It had begun a week ago, when a guy he knew slightly, a fella called A.K.A. because he operated under so many different names, phoned him and said, "Hey, John, it's A.K.A. here, I'm wondering, you got the flu, something like that? We don't see you around the regular place for a while."
"Which regular place is that?" Dortmunder asked.
"Oh, yeah," Dortmunder said. "Well, I been cuttin back. I might see you there sometime."
Off the phone, Dortmunder looked up the address of Armweery's and went there, and A.K.A. was at a booth in the back, under the loose lips sink ships poster where some wag had blacked out most of the Jap's teeth.
"What this is," A.K.A. said, under his new mustache (this one was gingery, and so, at the moment, was his hair), "is a deposition. A week from Thursday, 10:00 a.m., this lawyer's office in the Graybar Building. Take maybe an hour. You go in, they swear you, ask you some questions, that's it."
"Do I know the answers?"
"What's in it for me?"
"Half a gee."
Five hundred dollars for an hour's work; not so bad. If, of course. Depending. Dortmunder said, "What's the worst that could happen?"
A.K.A. shrugged. "They go looking for Fred Mullins out on Long Island."
"Got it," Dortmunder said.
"There'll also be a lawyer on our side there," A.K.A. told him. "I mean, the side of the guy that's running this thing. The lawyer isn't in on what's going down, by him you are Fred Mullins, from Carrport, Long Island, sohe'sjust there to see the other side doesn't stray from the program. And at the end of it, in the elevator, he gives you the envelope."
"Easy as falling off a diet," A.K.A. said, and handed him a manila envelope, which he took home and opened, to find it contained a whole story about one Fredric Albert Mullins and an entire family named Anadarko, all living on Red Tide Street out in Carrport between 1972 and 1985. Dortmunder diligently memorized it all, having his faithful companion May deposition him on the information every evening when she came home from the Safeway supermarket where she was a cashier. And then, on the following Wednesday, the day before his personal private show was to open, Dortmunder got another call from A.K.A., who said, "You know that car I was gonna buy?"
Uh oh. "Yeah?" Dortmunder said. "You were gonna pay five hundred for it, I remember."
"Turns out, at the last minute," A.K.A. said, "it's a real lemon, got unexpected problems. In a word, it won't run."
"And the five hundred?"
"Well, you know, John," A.K.A. said, "I'm not buying the car."