GOD SAVE THE MARK
By Donald E. Westlake
Forge/Otto Penzler Presents, 268 pp., $14.95
Fred Fitch, the gullible narrator of Westlake's 1967 novel, receives 300 grand from an uncle he's never met—and then his problems really begin. Sniped at, seduced, and ceaselessly solicited, Fred wises up just enough to keep his life, not to mention his loot. A neighbor fishes for some Fitch funding to self-publish his neglected masterpiece, Veni Vidi Vici Through Air Power, a book that asks one burning question: What if Julius Caesar had had access to a couple of biplanes? Fred himself recalls—or foreshadows—Charles Portis's Dog of the South übernebbish, Ray Midge, prone as he is to wonderfully absurd digressions that you can't help but read aloud: "I wanted to call him Ralph, I really wanted to call him Ralph. I wanted to start my answer with Ralph and end my answer with Ralph and put Ralphs in here and there in the middle of the answer, and answer only in words which were anagrams of Ralph."
—June 29, 2004, Village Voice