Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thursday's Thugs: The Criminal Mastermind

Anyone who watches the news or reads a newspaper knows that most criminals are not masterminds. In fact, criminals are usually less intelligent than the average person. But don't you just love fiction with a great criminal mastermind?

My personal favorite is Dortmunder. There are others, of course, but none can compare to John Dortmunder in giving his all for a plan that is bound to go wrong. Donald Westlake came up with a wonderful criminal mastermind, then surrounded him with idiots. The Dortmunder capers are fresh and funny. Even though I know that his plans are ingenious, I read each Dortmunder story waiting to see which of his accomplices will screw up the perfect crime, when the other shoe will drop, and how how he will come out of it.

It is no wonder that Westlake won the Edgar for "Too Many Crooks." It is one of the funniest and best plotted short stories I have ever discovered. I deeply regret that Donald Westlake is no longer with us. I could use another fifty years of new adventures for a criminal mastermind doomed to have his brilliant capers go awry.

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