What, you ask, is a Fred Fitch? Well, for one thing, Fred Fitch is the man with the most extensive collection of fake receipts, phony bills of sale, and counterfeit sweepstakes tickets in the Western hemisphere, and possibly in the entire world. For another thing, Fred Fitch may be the only New York City resident in the 20th century to buy a money machine. When Barnum said, "There's one born every minute, and two to take him," he didn't know about Fred Fitch; when Fred Fitch was born, there were two million to take him.Every itinerant grifter, hypester, bunk artist, short-conner, amuser, shearer, short-changer, green-goods worker, pennyweighter, ring dropper, and yentzer to hit New York City considers his trip incomplete until he's also hit Fred Fitch. He's sort of the con-man's version of Go: Pass Fred Fitch, collect 200 dollars, and move on.
What happens to Fred Fitch when his long-lost Uncle Matt dies and leaves Fred $300,000 shouldn't happen to the ball in a pinball machine. Fred Fitch with $300,000 is like a mouse with a sack of catnip: He's likely to attract the wrong kind of attention. Add to this the fact that Uncle Matt was murdered, by person or persons unknown, and that someone now seems determined to murder Fred as well, mix in two daffily charming beauties of totally different types, and you have a perfect setup for the busiest fictional hero since the well-known one-armed paperhanger. As Fred Fitch careers across the New York City landscape-and sometimes skyline-in his meetings with cops, con men, beautiful girls, and (maybe) murderers, he takes on some of the loonier aspects of a Dante without a Virgil. Take one part comedy and one part suspense and shake well-mostly with laughter.
©2004 Donald E. Westlake (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
1968 Edgar Award, Best Novel
All-Time Top 100 Mysteries (Mystery Writers of America)
Author, rabid Audible listener.
Fred Fitch is just a normal guy who is constantly swindled by nearly every grifter, con man, con woman and thief in New York City. The main character is Fred who gets sucked up in a series of situations after having received $300K following his Uncle's death.
Not quite a comedy but very funny, not quite a drama but with dramatic moements and not quite a thriller this book is an interesting meditation on a single person and his growing awareness of those people around him.
While a completely different read than American Gods, I kept thinking how similar these two books are with the fish-out-of-water-but-just-going-with-it style. I listened to this story on audiobook and thought Oliver Wyman was an excellent choice.
Whether a fan of Donald E. Westlake or not, I would highly recommend this book.
I've been a fan of Westlake's Dortmunder books forever, and I think Oliver Wyman is an outstanding reader, so I went into this book with nothing but good expectations. What I came out of it with is...confusion & some disappointment. I knew Fred Fitch wasn't John Archibald Dortmunder, but at the beginning of the book he seems like John's spiritual cousin; another mild, likeable but sad sack, this guy on the receiving end of crime instead of the committing end. He's a mark for the Universe, a gullible sucker for any con man that comes within a mile of him. He falls for cons all the time & con men seem to smell it and practically line up at his door. And he always opens the door for them.
The book starts out reminiscent of Dortmunder in another way; it's quite funny & lighthearted and even if Fred is getting ripped of every time he turns around, it's not mean-spirited, and they're small amounts of money that don't leave you concerned that he's going to get tossed out into the street. Fifteen dollars was certainly worth more when the book is set than it does now, but Fred isn't facing financial ruin so we can laugh at his gullibility and misfortune without feeling mean.
But then Fred inherits over $300,000 from an uncle he didn't know existed (which he initially thinks is another con) and the book gradually turns darker. Some people get dead, and while it's not gory at all, there's fewer yucks when there's real corpses sitting around...tho heaven knows, as a lifelong fan of horror & murder mysteries, I'm not bothered by corpses per se. I guess what got me was the deterioration of Fred's character; he starts out knowing he's a gullible yutz and he has a sense of humor about it, a sort of amused exasperation at himself (which is shared by his friend Riley of the Bunco Squad...they've interacted so many times over the years that they've become fast friends, which is pretty funny in itself).
But Fred really gets bitter and loses his sense of humor entirely as the book progresses. Not to say I blame him, really --it seems somebody is trying to kill him, & various strange & deadly things are happening around him because of the money-- but the book just wasn't funny in the second half, maybe started turning grim about 1/3 of the way through.
If you've never read Westlake, I'd very strongly recommend not starting here; try any of the Dortmunder books (with the mammoth exception of the “Drowned Hopes” audiobook read by Arte Johnson; it is beyond hideous, past unlistenable, is so bad that all associated with it should be imprisoned). The first Dortmunder book, “The Hot Rock,” is terrific. So are the others…”Bank Shot,” “The Road to Ruin,” etc. They’re also well read, as is this one.
Near the top. Bank Shot will always be my favorite, but God Save the Mark was also pretty great. Donald Westlake finds a way to make every crime worth laughing about.
When Harry realized that someone had been shooting at him
Great voices for each of the many characters
Donald Westlake. I want to know where he gets his ideas.
I always prefer the audio version of any book.
When the hero turns and starts to fight back
He was good, but not as good as the reader in Westlake's earlier books.
There's a sucker born every minute
This book is true Westlake. Delightful humor, good story and marvelous characters. New York is the perfect setting for this story.
I have to separate my books like Graham Greene into Entertainments and Serious Lit. As far as E's go this one is funny, particularly the beginning which had me laughing while listening. Westlake has some great comic crime novels and i like returning to him. The Dortmunder series is very funny, though I wish the audio's read by Tom Parker were available here soon, he reads Dortmunder perfect.
Main character is very good.
Wyman's reading is good, though as I said, I think the Westlakes from Books on Tape that Tom Parker reads are a perfect match.
To paraphrase the Who,
Westlake always fun, and he writes serious hard crime novels as Richard Stark.
I love Donald Westlake, but this is a dud. Main character meant to be comically thick is instead dull and unbelievable. Good reader, but keep your Westlake memories unsullied by this one.
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