Actor Paul Cole gets caught in bed with another man's wife and suffers a head injury. Now Cole's long term memory is gone and his short term memory isn't anything to write home about. Can Cole get back to his old life in New York and remember who he was?
Memory was among Donald Westlake's possessions after he died a few years ago. Apparently he'd written it in the 60's but never got it published. Thanks to Lawrence Block and the Hard Case Crime series, it's finally seen print.
Since Westlake was primarily a crime writer, it's not hard to see why publishers were reluctant to take a chance on Memory. Rather than being a crime novel, it's more a of a literary one. There's a slight mystery element but it's more the story of a man trying to find himself after having his life snatched away. It explores the concept of identity and what it would be like to forget almost everything every day.
Paul Cole's life is a sad one, far from the hijinx of Dortmunder or the violent world of Parker. He suffers one defeat after another and continuously grasps at straws in an attempt to regain his memory. The supporting cast is fairly well-rounded. Cole's agent Helen is probably the most memorable.
Since this was the last published work of Donald Westlake, I feel bad only giving it a three but that's as high as I can go. It's a little on the long side and the mystery element felt tacked on. Plus the ending is pretty sad. Still, when it comes to a deceased author's work, you have to take what you can get.
On a side note, with this volume, I've now read the entire Dorchester run of the Hard Case Crime series, all 66 books.