DONALD E. WESTLAKE – Put a Lid on It. Mysterious Press, hardcover, 2002. Warner, paperback, March 2003.

   I don’t know about any of you reading this, but this semi-comic heist novel by the author of the Parker and Dortmunder books simply slipped by me when it first came out. Its protagonist, one Francis Meehan, is in a federal prison with no hope of getting out any time soon when all of a sudden he’s given an offer he can’t refuse: do a small job of thievery for the President’s current campaign committee, and it’s a Get of Jail Free card that in his wildest dreams he never expected.

   Obviously after the flop that was the Watergate burglary, they want a professional, not a crew of amateurs.

   Nowhere near as violent as the Parker books, and not as out-and-out funny as the Dortmunder series, Put a Lid on It is somewhere in between, but closer to Dortmunder than Parker. The focus is on Meehan all the way through, so I never got a clear picture of what he looks like, but if I were to make a movie of this, I might go for George Clooney, except for the fact that maybe he’s tired of making movie like this.

   As for Meehan’s public defender lawyer, Elaine Goldfarb, she looks exactly like you would expect a Jewish public defender named Elaine Goldfarb would look like. I wish she had more of a role in this book than she does, but that’s intentional on her part. She wants no part of what Meehan has agreed to do, and that goes doubly for a little side project he has in mind.

   As far as heists go, I will tell you that getting a gang together on Meehan’s part takes up a lot more time and effort than it should have taken – way more than the middle third of the book – but what I won’t tell you if the heist goes off as planned or not. What Meehan is good at, though, is improvising, and it’s a skill he needs, in spades.

   This one was fun. It’s too bad Westlake never got around to coming up with a sequel.