Double Feature by Donald Westlake

Double Feature really isn’t a true double feature. The two stories are not equal in length or weight. They are not really related much either. Loosely, both stories are connected to the movie world, the world of pretend, the world of make believe. They both in a sense revolve around what’s real and what’s pretend.

“A Travesty” comprises a full seventy percent of Double Feature. It was eventually turned into a TV movie starring William H Macy and Felicity Huffman (before her scandalous cheating ways became front page news). It is a slower, quieter crime thriller and reeks of Westlake’s famed comedic touch. The plot revolves around a film critic who offs his lover during an argument. A private detective ferrets out what happened and offers to lie in exchange for $10,000.

What follows is amusing as the bumbling film critic struggles to come up with the cash for the payoff, emptying out his piggybanks, selling off his prized possessions, and even robbing a bank. But, that’s only where the fun starts because the police detective investigating the murder becomes buddies with the film critic, using the critic’s knowledge of murder mysteries to solve crimes and to brainstorm solutions to Laura’s demise. Of course, in between solving crimes and having dinners with the police detective and his wife, the earnest film critic is bedding the detective’s wife. This novella is Westlake’s private joke, having fun at the whole murder mystery industry which he’s been a part of for so many decades.

The second story, which is a novelette not a novella, is Orly. This one’s not even a crime story. It’s an odd little story about the ways in which fame and fortune change a person as Orry discovers that his ex-wife is now the world’s biggest star, but she doesn’t seem much like his memories of her.

Both stories are interesting short pieces, although not hardboiled, not pulpy, and not earth-shattering.


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