aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. October 5, 2011 - 8:30pm

I've been reading a lot of books by comedians recently, I don't know why but it got me thinking.  Is it important for a writer to have a sense of humor?  And what comedians do you like?  Are you a Monty Python sort of person or do you think American humor can be amusing too or is it all just fart jokes?  Is South Park still funny or do you prefer your comedy dry?

 

I think people like George Carlin were funny but so uber-critical of everything.  Do you like complainer humor or dry biting humor or just loud cussing is what passes for funny these days?

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break October 6, 2011 - 3:43am

Aw man, I thought we had our first herpes thread.

I think sense of humor is important, even if it's just in a dark, kind of fucked up way.  Comedians like Patton Oswalt and David Cross are the guys I grew up on.

Whatever...I'm posting my herpes piece anyway: CARL

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william.c.cathey from Georgia is reading What Is The What October 6, 2011 - 11:06am

yeah i'd definitely say humor is important..and useful, especially when u can find humor somehow in anything..situations u wouldnt normally to laugh at made light and funny is usually interesting.

 

and i love south park ha i wont lie..honestly, i just like to laugh ha, whatever it is

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Kirk from Pingree Grove, IL is reading The Book Of The New Sun October 6, 2011 - 11:11am

Carlin was not only the greatest comic of our time, but also one of the greatest social commentators. The world is a worse place without him around.

I love comics, particularly those that aren't afraid to go into dark places. I'm of the opinion that nothing is off limits when it comes to comedy. There is nothing worse than "too soon" or "that's inappropriate". Some of my favorites:

George Carlin
Patrice Oneal
Jim Norton
Patton Oswalt
David Cross
Joe Rogan
Doug Stanhope
Jim Jefferies

XyZy's picture
XyZy from New York City is reading Seveneves and Animal Money October 6, 2011 - 12:41pm

I laugh at all the funny things, even some of the not so funny things.

My favorites, though, are the jokes that turn around their initial expectations (which could be said of all jokes to a certain degree) but do it in a way that make you reinterpret the joke from the beginning. The word for it is paraprosdokian, or more commonly 'garden path sentences'. Some of the masters of this kind of humor:

Groucho Marx: "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read." --- "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."

Steven Wright: "I installed a skyline in my apartment. The people who live above me are furious." --- "I intend to live forever. So far, so good."

Emo Phillips: "I love to go down to the schoolyard and watch all the little children jump up and down, and run around, yelling and screaming. They don't know I'm firing blanks." --- "You know what I hate? Indian givers... no, wait, I take that back."

Dorothy Parker: "If all the girls who attended Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised." --- "Brevity is the soul of lingerie."

Mitch Hedberg: "I don't have a girlfriend, I just know a girl who'd get really mad if she heard me say that." --- "This shirt is 'dry-clean-only' which means, it's dirty."

Woody Allen: "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it by not dying." --- "I'd call him a sadistic, hippophilic necrophile, but that would be beating a dead horse. "

Dimitri Martin: "I used to play sports. Then I realized you could buy trophies. Now I am good at everything." --- "I like parties, but I don't like piñatas because the piñata promotes violence against flamboyant animals. Hey, there's a donkey with some pizzazz. Let's kick its ass. What I'm trying to say is, don't make the same Halloween costume mistake that I did."

Winston Churchill: "You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing--after they have tried everything else." --- "I am easily satisfied with the very best."

Though I also have to second Carlin and Cross.

EDIT: Also Brandon's story is hilarious.

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Laramore Black from Joplin, Missouri is reading Mario Kart 8 October 6, 2011 - 1:22pm

To Kirk:

I love all of those comedians.

I've been kind of wanting to read Stephen Colbert's old book, and that one just made by Russel Brand.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 11, 2011 - 12:10am

It's important for a writer to have a sense of humor if they're writing humor books. It also helps as far as books in general because having a little humor here and there will strengthen it.

This is a great book on humor (and very short): http://www.amazon.com/Stop-Youve-Heard-This-Philosophy/dp/B005DICX2W/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318310147&sr=1-1

Favorite comedian: Mitch Hedburg

Raelyn's picture
Raelyn from California is reading The Liars' Club October 10, 2011 - 9:21pm

Since George Carlin has already been mentioned, I thought I'd post two other great comedians: 

Louis C.K.

Bill Burr

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 10, 2011 - 10:17pm

I think my favorite joke ever, by Steven Wright:

Lots of my friends have babies. I don't have any babies but I have lots of friends, babies don't have any friends.

 

I grew up on Bill Hicks, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor rerun specials. Fantastic stuff. Hilarious and poignant. All listed above and people like Dave Chappelle, Doug Stanhope, Dylan Moran, Dave Foley.

I definitely believe understanding comedy will make you a better writer in general. Structure, emotional investment, rhythm, all that stuff. Upon hearing the old radio show The Goon Show, my brain folded in on itself and I've been trying to capture that determined surrealism ever since, forcing me to imagine things pretty much inconcievable.

One of the best writing tools I have found recently is the improv comedy handbook, Truth in Comedy by Del Close and Charna Helpurn. This is the manual for the Upright Citizen's Brigade, it has a lot of useful excersises and philosophies that could easily be applied to dramatic prose writing.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 11, 2011 - 12:10am

I'm not sure if writing humor can be learned. Possibly, but I've always leaned toward "no" and thought it was an inborn sort of thing. I feel it comes naturally to me and is extremely difficult to "turn off." If I put conscious effort into being funny, it usually results in a series of really awful jokes as if I "tried too hard."

There's definitely some tips on humor writing that writers can pick up though. And I suspect you're more likely to be a humor writer if you suffer from depression. I'm a humor writer and something strange happened to me over the years. I used to be able to determine whether or not what I wrote was funny. If I wrote a poor joke, I rewrote it to turn it into a great joke. I was constantly laughing at what I wrote. But now, I lack the ability to determine what is and is not funny. And even when I write something with the intention of supressing my humor, people seem to find it funny.

.'s picture
. October 10, 2011 - 11:13pm

Louis C.K and Joe Rogan are epic. I miss Dave Chapelle.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 10, 2011 - 11:30pm

I watched the first episode of Louis C.K.'s show tonight. It was ok. Wasn't too impressed with it and probably won't watch another, although perhaps it's an example where the pilot episode isn't as good as the rest of the episodes of the show. There were a few really great moments though.

What happened with Chapelle? I remember he was like "missing" a while back, but he's returned since then. Did he just lose the urge to perform? I guess once certain people make enough money to live off of for the rest of their lives, they can retire. Perhaps no longer enjoyed what he was doing.

.'s picture
. October 10, 2011 - 11:35pm

Yeah you should give Louie a chance.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 10, 2011 - 11:47pm

So do you think it was a case of the pilot being inferior to the rest of the show, which seems to happen a lot, although more often with shows on free channels than on cable?. I think his show is on FX, which is basic cable.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 10, 2011 - 11:53pm

The pilot is not as good as most of the other episodes, but it is not especially dissimilar. It can be preachy and uninteresting in parts, but is usually full of some belly laughs too. It improves over time.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 11, 2011 - 12:12am

I liked the scenes better than the parts with the stand-up. Kind of like Seinfeld. Really liked the show. Hated Jerry's stand-up at the end of it.

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amazingrobots from Savannah, GA is reading When You Are Engulfed In Flames October 11, 2011 - 7:03am

Zach Galiafankis has amazing stand-up.

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Chorlie from Philadelphia, PA is reading The Rules of the Tunnel October 11, 2011 - 7:29am

Bill Hicks. Ahead of his time. Only George and Bill used a stage to their advantage.

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Kirk from Pingree Grove, IL is reading The Book Of The New Sun October 11, 2011 - 8:35am

You should certainly be watching Louie. The thing with it is, you have the 'get' that it is unlike any comedy you've ever seen. In fact, many episodes only have 1 or 2 jokes. He takes you to some very personal and dark places and just when you think you know what he's doing, he throws you for a loop.

It is honestly, some of the best TV I think I've ever seen. This article, by Chuck Klosterman really nails it. A few quotes

And then — of course — the episode changed. It didn’t just become unbad; it became incredible. The more I think about it, the more I suspect the interaction with Dane Cook might be the strongest seven-minute stretch I’ve ever seen on television: It’s realer than any reality show, more emotionally complicated than most 300-page memoirs, yet still awkward and severe and (somehow) easy to watch. I want to know everything about this scene — I want to know if this conversation truly happened, I want to know Cook’s views on his involvement, and I want to know C.K.’s deeper intent.

This fall marks the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind, so lots of folks are talking and writing about how life-changing the release of that record was. But in 1991, Nevermind was not unilaterally appreciated — people argued about its merits constantly, and a lot of people hated it. We generally agree it’s awesome now, but that agreement is retrospective. Louie is not like that. Right now, Louie is like the Beatles in ’66, or maybe Joe DiMaggio in ’41. These half-hour explorations are not just deftly written, but formally inventive — the episode in which his racist aunt dies is structured unlike any American situation comedy ever produced.

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ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig October 11, 2011 - 9:57am

I like most of the comedians listed here, and I really do have the sense of humor required to listen to Jim Norton and not vomit. I am going out on a limb and say we have a few Opie & Anthony fans here (although I no longer even know how to listen to them, it's been so long).

And that Carl story gave me a good chuckle.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. October 13, 2011 - 11:17pm

Stephen Lynch.

I like some comedians who use songs as part of their bits.

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day October 17, 2011 - 5:42pm

I saw Louis CK two nights ago.  He's my current favorite, and my all time second only to Chris Rock, but bear in mind I'm not old enough to appreciate most comedy from before the 90s.

Also saw Doug Stanhope recently.  The show wasn't oustanding but he's still one of the best in my books.

Bekanator's picture
Bekanator from Kamloops, British Columbia is reading Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter October 17, 2011 - 6:15pm

I like Louis CK but I find his marriage jokes a bit of a bore.  I just hate that sterotype of your sex life dying after you get married; it's so tired.

I've recently gotten into Mike Birbiglia.  His show, Sleepwalk with Me is just a brilliant mix of comedy and memoir.

Patch Carr's picture
Patch Carr from Richmond, Virginia is reading The Help October 26, 2011 - 8:55pm

George Carlin's "Modern Man" is the best poetry performance I've ever seen.

 

.'s picture
. October 26, 2011 - 10:55pm

I don't have to read the other posts to know that no one said Dane Cook was their favorite comedian. I kind of like Lewis Black, even if he does just scream and rant the whole time.

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Mike Mckay is reading God's Ashtray October 27, 2011 - 1:00am

Bill Hicks is a god along with George Carlin though recently I've been watching a lot of Louis Ck. Never liked the guys stuff until I saw a recent stand up. I couldn't remember the last time I laughed so hard I cried.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs December 4, 2011 - 12:04am

At first I didn't like Louis at all, but now I really love the show. I rarely laugh out loud, but that's ok because the it's still awesome. Was his HBO show that got cancelled any good?

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest December 4, 2011 - 5:43am

George Carlin. Period.

Mitch Hedberg.

Richard Pryor.

Eddie Murphy.

And I'm gonna say it, Carrot Top, but you have to see him live. Television does not do his live shows justice. The guy is fucking hilarious live. My friend and I saw him years ago, my friend hating him. After the show, my friend loved him.

My parents love Jeff Dunham. I don't think he's too bad. He's coming to Pittsburgh at the end of the month and my mom and I are going. Should be a good time.

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JonnyGibbings December 4, 2011 - 6:00am

I don't think it is important for a writer to have a sense of humor, but I prefer those that do. There are a few comedy books by comedians, but I've not read many. The ones that I have I wasn't keen on as they tried you use the same cadence as in their stand-up and it doesn't work. I do like funny books though, and thought 'Apathy and other small victories' was brilliant. You can forgive elements cos it makes you laugh in they same way we all know a total cock, but he is funny so you suffer for the golden moments.

There is a risk involved though as comedy is so suggestive that many an agent wont consider it, preferring non-offensive, non-challenging bullshit like a cookery book. There is (I have to be careful how I address this bit as many of you here are very much versed and craftsmen of the craft of writing rather than being a simple story teller like me), an aversion to funny. Even giants like Kurt Vonnegut felt that the literary establishment never took him seriously. This seems to be a factor many of the writers I have met on my (probably temporary) foray into the world of writing, In the same way you never get a funny film up for an oscar. Oddly, films like the 40 year old virgin was largely ad-libbed. There was a structure sure, but the film hinged on the comedy and performance of the cast. Far braver than an encapsulated script delivered word for word in front of a green screen. It will never get the credit it deserves.

A well crafted comedy book is difficult. Writing a gag, to have it's punch-line delivered days later. Hiding reveals, keeping the tempo for 300 plus pages as well as a solid plot is just as much a craft as one that scars your heart and lives with you for the rest of your life. Comedy films have teams of writers, as do comedians. Any author who can keep you laughing is a good writer, such as Clive James with unreliable memoirs. There are few writers who can seamlessly stitch good comedy with a dark or non-comedy plot (such as Chuck), and are genius in my opinion (even though my opinion carries no weight). I've had a fair bit of shit from some within the establishment here in the UK because my book is offensive and over the top comedy. It's just gone on sale on amazon in ebook form. Will it be a sales success? - who knows. A the pre-launch reading one guy laughed so much he actually vomited (mind you one woman waled out because she was offended by it), but seeing people laugh. Job done. The reviews from the tester and book have been good so far. That is where a funny book does have it easy. I remember riding the underground in London. Blank faces, some the same every day. Nobody ever smiled. 300 people crammed in a confined space, and yet you are completely alone. Then one gut laughed out loud, while reading his book. He got embarrassed, and that made him laugh more. The laughter was contagious, soon everyone was grinning and smiling, looking at him. Those closest to him started laughing, and there was eye contact. People smiled at each other. The whole mood of that carriage lifted, and  remained high for the rest of my trip. Sadly, stoic had retuned the following day. I remember thinking I want to be able to do that.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs December 4, 2011 - 8:03pm

I may be the only person who didn't enjoy Apathy and Other Small Victories. I'm positive I would have liked it if it wasn't marketed as being hilarous considering I did not find it very funny. If I didn't have that expectation going into the book, I probably would have been very entertained by it. I have the same problem with certain movies such as Zombieland, which I kept hearing how hilarious it was but didn't find very funny (except for the scene with Bill Murray). But the movie was extremely entertaining, so I would have had a high opinion of it if you didn't watch it with the expectation that it was hilarious.

Same thing with Donald Westlake's novel, The Hot Rock. I'm a huge fan of the Parker books that he wrote under a pseudonym, but they are a series of books that are extremely serious and dark. And I heard he also wrote humorous crime books under his real name. And I was very curious about this because I couldn't conceive of how someone who wrote the Parker books could possibly write humor considering how "serious" the Parker books are. So I read the first humorous crime book that he published and was disappointed because I didn't find it funny. If I did not read it with the expectation that it would be, I'm sure I would have loved it because it was a fun book.

Also, books and movies don't necessarily need to make me laugh out loud in order for them to be funny.

Anyway, so what about Lucky Louis?

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest December 4, 2011 - 5:05pm

@Bradley: The Parker books are great. They have their moments in them, of course my sense of humor leans on the sicker side.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest December 4, 2011 - 5:16pm

I watched Tropic Thunder the other night for like, the millionth time, and I still laugh my ass off. When dude gets blown up by the mine, classic. And, that fuckin' look on Downey Jr's face after he says: "I don't read the script, script reads me." Then, "What you gettin at wit the book, script, spit that shit out man." That fucking smile gets me everytime. But, Cruise... Man, he killed it in that.

 

[video:

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters December 4, 2011 - 5:30pm

I love Tropic THunder.  I literally think it is the funniest movie ever.  Downey Jr. makes that movie.

"lost in the goddamn jungle with Captain Simple Jack."  Kills me

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest December 4, 2011 - 5:35pm

Okay, just for you Doll...

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters December 4, 2011 - 5:37pm

Yaaay.  *claps emphatically*   This made me smile. 

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest December 4, 2011 - 5:42pm

THe best part though, is this:

 

His face at the end. You know he wants to laugh. Gets me everytime.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters December 4, 2011 - 5:49pm

You know, and I generally don't really like Ben Stiller, but it just all came togetehr on this movie.  I don't even know that kid's name, but he was hilarious.  Such great timing

I'm a rooster illusion.
Fuck it. We'll deal with him later.
 

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest December 4, 2011 - 5:56pm

"Ahh, I gotta take a fuckin' twelve pound shit."

Yeah, not a big Stiller fan either, but it did come together in T.T..  So many great lines in it. I could go line for line all night.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters December 4, 2011 - 5:59pm

I know I know!  People will start to hate us eventually...

"Yeah. But seriously, a nutless monkey could do your job."

 

 


 

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest December 4, 2011 - 6:16pm

"Cover me you limp dick fucker!"

And this at .46 in:

 

 

 

Let em hate...

 

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters December 4, 2011 - 6:21pm

What do you mean 'you people'?

What do you mean 'you people'??

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest December 4, 2011 - 6:26pm

I'm not feelin' so good right now, seriously, my skin hurts.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters December 4, 2011 - 6:31pm

Ahh!  I'm running out of lines!

"No you can't have any fuckin' jelly beans! "

 

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest December 4, 2011 - 6:50pm

You more shredded than a julian salad man.

I know, running out. Fun though. :)

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters December 4, 2011 - 7:05pm

Oh!  Oh!! I got one!

"I don't know what it's called; I only know the sound it makes when it lies!"

 

This is way more fun than it ought to be. 
 

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest December 4, 2011 - 7:58pm

Okay... 

My head is... dehydrated...

... I need electrolytes

... for my pea brain which is...

... constipated.

 

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest December 4, 2011 - 7:59pm

Yeah, too much fun... LOL

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs December 4, 2011 - 8:02pm

@R.Moon: Do you actually find anything in the Parker books funny? I've always thought of them as being 100% joke-free. (I love them, but most of them are a bit same-y, so I always wait a while between reading books. The writing is super tight. Westlake is a master of his craft.)

But...the Dortmunder books. They might be funny, but The Hot Rock hasn't convinced me of this.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest December 4, 2011 - 8:12pm

@Bradley: FIrebreak had a couple of moments. I mean, they weren't totally comedy and those moments weren't laugh out loud, but I cracked a smile. It's been awhile since I've read any Stark, so I can't really give a specific example. Okay,found one real quick. I thought the opening line of Firebreak was kind of funny: 'When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage killing a man.' It's simple, too the point and tinged with a bit of dark humor. Like I said, my humor leans to the sicker side.

I haven't read the Dortmunder books. Although I do have What's So Funny? After I finish Drive by James Sallis, I'll read it and let you know if it's funny.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs December 4, 2011 - 9:13pm

I'm far away from Firebreaker right now. I think The Green Eagle Score is the next book that I have to read. And yeah, Parker books pretty much always have great opening sentences. I think there's a website online somewhere that lists all of them.

There's one Dortmunder book that I want to read called Jimmy the Kid because Wikipedia says this about it: (it) features a plot in which Dortmunder and his associates base a kidnapping on a plan from a (fictitious) Parker novel called Child Heist.

I'm pretty sure I saw that book in a thrift store while I was with my roommate at the time a couple of days before I moved away Boulder, Colorado, told my roommate about it because he's into crime fiction, and he ended up buying it. I just didn't know it was THAT Dortmunder book or else it would have been mine.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest December 4, 2011 - 9:16pm

Aww man... That sucks. You check Amazon, ebay? I just ordered a signed copy of Elmore Leonard's Be Cool. Just finished Get Shorty and am in the middle of his collection of shorts called When the Women Come Out to Dance. Love his style. How about Vachss? Ever read Vachss?