Get Real Review
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Reality television is enticing viewers more than ever, and the seedier the subject matter, the better. So why not air a series where the viewers lurk on criminals as they plan and execute their next crime?

That’s what Stan Murch’s mother suggests to reality TV producer Doug Fairkeep as he’s riding in her cab. Stan is a career criminal, and his mom figures that, in this electronic age of constantly improving security systems, he and his buddy, John Dortmunder, had better find another line of business.

Fairkeep sees the idea as a winner, and he approaches the two thieves with the proposition, in exchange for $20,000 plus per diem. One glitch: how can he guarantee that they won’t be arrested? Stan and John do come up with a plan, though—for the show…and for themselves. If they steal from the show’s parent company, it would be like the show stealing from itself, and that wouldn’t really be stealing. Would it?

  
 
To Stan and John’s disappointment, Fairkeep insists that there’s no cash lying around. Still, they’re determined to find cash somewhere to supplement their 20 grand. After all, how can they lift and unload oil, real estate, movies, or aircraft engines? So they enlist the rest of their gang of thieves for help. However, Fairkeep and his crew deliver a few surprises of their own: a loose script and a few actors to enhance (and keep their eyes on) the “real” criminals.

Get Real is the last of the John Dortmunder series by the late author Donald E. Westlake. He gives readers his impression of today’s media and incorporates it into a funny, fast, and enjoyable novel. After all, television is all about ratings, and, since real life can be boring, the production team finds that it must “enhance” reality.

What makes Get Real simply funny instead of hilarious and enjoyable instead of a “can’t put it down” kind of novel is that, while the plot is exciting, the characters are not. This type of humorous novel would have been a great way to develop characters with eccentric traits. Instead, the crooks are rather dull. The few members of the production team who are interesting are described as such in the narrative, rather than by their actions. Also, Westlake spends too much time explaining the characters’ motives, when readers can easily figure it out for themselves. However, the plot and side stories are comical—like the reality show based on a farm stand, where the “real” people and the protagonists won’t go in the direction that the show demands.

Even with its flaws, I recommend Get Real for a quick, light read. It’s just enough to help you escape the daily problems of the “real” world.

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