REVIEW: Forever And A Death by Donald E. Westlake

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Read this book for: action thriller, Australian locations, China/Hong Kong locations, big schemes, amateur detectives, heist plot

Quick Review: Though you can see its genesis as a Bond movie plot shining though, FOREVER AND A DEATH stands equally well on it’s own as a well-paced, interesting and page-turning action thriller.





FOREVER AND A DEATH by Donald E. Westlake is an action thriller with an interesting origin. Westlake was commissioned to pen a plot for the next James Bond movie two decades ago, and dreamed up this plot about a scorned businessman in Hong Kong out for revenge after being kicked out of the business circle’s on the island’s return to China. However, the producers decided that it was too political for the time and the movie was never made. Westlake turned the plot into this book.

There are definite moments where you can picture how the movie would have looked when you’re reading this novel – helicopter rides, the yachts and sweeping ocean, the intriguing and audacious revenge plot and the mad-scientist way of achieving it, as well as the relentless assassins with quirky characteristics are all essential Bond elements. However, Westlake did not simply create a stand-in character for Bond and call it something else. Three characters share the spotlight – George Manville, an engineer, Kim Baldur, a young environmentalist and diver, and Jerry Diedrich, the head of an environmental watch group with an obsessive focus on Richard Curtis, the Hong Kong businessman.

From there, the plot of the novel is a fairly standard action thriller plot with some intriguing twists on it. For example, the heist plot is quite an intriguing plan, and the main protagonists are two environmentalist and an engineer who was working for Richard Curtis. They have no real inkling of the plot but they expect him to be trying something nefarious. There are a lot of unique elements to make this an engaging thriller rather than your standard guns-and-fight-scenes piece.

Part of that is done through the characters, who are all interesting, believably motivated, and diverse – and who come from non-action-based walks of life. While there are some police officers and detectives involved, it’s these characters that you actually really come to care about. Of particular note is the vulnerability and strength of Jerry, who runs the ‘Planetwatch’ group with his partner Luther and who takes the apparent death of one of his colleagues on his watch – although not his fault – in a believably hard way. It’s a brave choice for an action thriller but a fantastically realistic one, and one that works nicely to balance the more outrageous elements of the plot to make the whole novel more believable.

I have to recommend FOREVER AND A DEATH as a fantastic take on what an action thriller that dares to think outside of the box can be. I also am adding several more Hard Case Crime features to my reading list, because they do tend to find gems!

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