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Dortmunder Books In Order

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Publication Order of Dortmunder Books

The “Dortmunder” series by author Donald E. Westlake stars a thief (who has a lot of bad luck) named John Dortmunder. The character’s name comes from a neon sign that Westlake saw that read DAB which was for a beer called “Dortmunder Actien Bier”. The character appears in eleven stories and fourteen novels, and made his first appearance in “The Hot Rock” which was published in the year 1970. The final novel to star Dortmunder was released in the year 2009, and was called “Get Real”.

“The Hot Rock” was supposed to star his main character, Parker (which was published under his Richard Stark pen name), but things kept going humorous especially for a hard boiled character like Parker. He rewrote the story to feature more likable and bumbling characters.

Parker and Dortmunder are similar in some ways. They both work as career criminals and come up with schemes for their burglaries. Throughout, they give the responsibilities to their respective teams.

Dortmunder has stooped shoulders, is tall, and has lifeless and thinning hair. His face is disreputable and has a hangdog expression that does not smile often. His girlfriend and he share an apartment in Manhattan; her name is Mary and she works as a cashier in a supermarket. He does not like schemes that are over the top or outlandish and is non-violent.

Usually, most of the jobs he works goes wrong in some way, even with all of the careful planning he does. It gives him a reputation of being jinxed. Even though he is not superstitious, he even believes it too. He is actually relieved when something does go wrong, and starts to worry when things are going smoothly.

A moral for the books is that crime does not pay. At least not very well, anyway. This is because Dortmunder and his team do not make much money from the heists, and actually cost them more than the victory is worth. In some stories, him and his team are able to make out quite well, though.

His age is pretty well frozen in time with many characters in long running series. He stays in his early forties for the duration of this series’ almost four decade long run.

He has been convicted two times on charges of burglary, doing time in prison. At the start of the first book in the series, he is finishing the final day of the second prison term. He has the knowledge that a third conviction will mean life in prison without the chance of parole hanging over him throughout the series.

He believes that you should never work a job with less people than you will need. Dortmunder also believes that you should never work a job with more than four other people. He feels that if a job needs more than a total of five people, the job is too risky to do. One time, he worked a job where the crew wound up totaling twenty people. This is due to the job being too irresistible for him to pass on.

His family crest’s motto translates into “What is in it for me?” Dortmunder has admitted to stealing this motto.

Many actors have played this role in many adaptations throughout the years. “Jimmy the Kid” was adapted three different times, once in Italy, Germany, and America (in 1982 with Gary Coleman playing Jimmy). “The Hot Rock” was adapted in 1972 with Dortmunder being played by Robert Redford, and “Bankshot” was adapted in the year 1974, with George C. Scott playing Dortmunder.

“Jimmy the Kid” is the third novel in the “Dortmunder” series and was released in the year 1974. Kelp has put together a plan, and it means only one thing to Dortmunder. Trouble. Kelp is nothing but a jinx, and the schemes he puts together, no matter how well put together, tend to fall apart quickly. It is airtight, he swears. He got this one out of a book.

While he was in the county lock up on a traffic charge, he found some pulp novels by a writer who was named Richard Stark. It stars Parker (who is a thief) whose plans work out, unlike their own. Parker executes akidnapping that just has to work for real, it is that brilliant. Dortmunder agrees to try the book as a blueprint, even though he is offended that his role as the planner has been taken over by Kelp.

It was simple in the book, but turns pretty complicated in real life. And there is no guide book to help him with all of the madness that he is now signed on for.

“Nobody’s Perfect” is the fourth novel in the “Dortmunder” series and was released in the year 1977. Only a miracle would be able to keep Dortmunder out of the slammer. He cased the electronics place brilliantly, but the cops surprised him, turning up in that alley way when he had a television set in each hand. He has a record, and faces down a long sentence. J. Radcliffe Stonewiler (who is a celebrity lawyer) shows up and gets him off, without much effort.

Arnold Chauncey, he loves art but has a money problem, sent the lawyer. He wants Dortmunder to break into his house and steal a painting worth a lot of money. In exchange, Dortmunder will get a quarter of the insurance payout. Chauncey has done this job two times before, so it will have to look real. He is not going to give Dortmunder any inside help. Which is a shame, because when things spin out of his control, he is going to need every bit of help he can get his hands on.

“Why Me?” is the fifth novel in the “Dortmunder” series and was released in the year 1983. Ninety carats of ruby that are flawless, and there is huge religious and national significance tied to it. It is The Bysantine Fire.

This is the biggest heist that Dortmunder has ever pulled off. It makes him the target of a lot of people; from the Turkish government to the FBI. Dortmunder now has to figure out how to undo the biggest heist of his career, not to mention, of a lifetime.

Book Series In Order » Characters » Dortmunder

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