Donald E. Westlake
Hard Case (Dorchester), Apr 2010, $7.99
Traveling with a troupe actor Paul Cole wakes after being comatose for over fifty hours at Memorial Hospital after receiving a vicious beating from the husband who caught him having intercourse with his wife. City Police Lieutenant Murray informs Paul he can press assault charges while the cuckold spouse can counter with adultery; the cop suggests to the actor and the husband to file nothing.
With little money and Murray putting him on the bus to leave town, he heads east to New York City where he lives, but has to stop at Jeffords as he lacks the funds to get the rest of the thousand miles or so home. Worse his memory is failing him since he got his brains battered. He needs to build a future, but his past is foggy. He knows he needs to find work to come up with the $33.42 to get home. Unemployment offers him no employment except to check with Jeffords Leather Works who hire the unskilled. He soon learns how difficult it is for a person with a disability to get help from others.
Written in the 1960s, once the reader moves past the sticker shock of costs and Murray’s crime scenario, readers will relish this powerful still timely tale of a man struggling with memory issues while trying to get home to regroup. Paul is a great central character as he realizes increasingly the consequences of his indiscretion as well as the futility of dealing with people to busy to assist him especially those paid to do so. This is a great look at society through the eyes of a man condemned for life due to one relatively minor gaffe.