Hard Case Crime to release unpublished Westlake mystery

Once again, a round of applause to Titan Publishing for rescuing the Hard Case Crime line after the Dorchester Publishing/Leisure Books fiasco left Charles Ardai’s invaluable crime fiction imprint homeless in 2010. Hard Case Crime has become a wonderful curator of mysteries, thrillers and pulp crime novels both old and new, and its resurrection under Titan pays dividends yet again with this month’s release of The Comedy is Finished, believed to be the last unpublished manuscript from the late Donald E. Westlake.

The novel tells the story of a comedian who is kidnapped and held for ransom by a domestic terrorist group looking to have some of their members freed from prison. Westlake reportedly worked on the book throughout the 1970s, only to shelve it after seeing the 1983 Martin Scorcese film The King of Comedy, which shared the kidnapped comedian plot element.

“Aside from that one shared element, the two stories are completely different,” Ardai said in a recent press release. “But Don apparently was concerned enough about the possibility that some readers might see a similarity that he set the book aside and never published it.”

Hard Case Crime has published other novels by Westlake, including 2010’s Memory, which was believed at the time to be Westlake’s final unpublished work. Author Max Allan Collins, who cites Westlake as a friend and mentor, brought Comedy to Ardai’s attention.

The Comedy is Finished will be released on February 21 in both trade paperback and e-book formats.

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