"Somebody owes me money" - George C. Scott in THE HUSTLER (1962)
Yeah, Scott may have said it first but that didn't stop the late, great Donald E. Westlake from using that phrase as the title for his 1969 comic crime novel. I finished reading this fast paced, breezy romp of a mystery this afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed it. The edition I read was reprinted by Hard Case Crime (my favorite contemporary publisher) in June, 2008.
Chet Conway is a New York City taxi driver with a slight gambling problem. One day, a fare doesn't give him a monetary tip. Instead, the passenger gives him a tip on a horse, a tip which pays off big to the tune of nine hundred and thirty dollars. When Chet goes to collect his winnings from his bookie, he finds the bookie shot dead and Chet fingered as the most likely suspect in the killing.
Before you know it, Chet is on the run from not one but two rival gangs of mobsters, the police and Abbie, the dead bookie's blackjack dealer sister from Las Vegas who has hit town aiming to avenger her brother's murder by killing Chet.
Chet and Abbie quickly make peace but they're still in a jam. They need to find out who killed the bookie and who tried to kill Chet in order to get the mob and the cops off of their backs. There's oodles of comic dialogue and a well executed chase sequence before the action climaxes in a poker game in which one of the players is guilty of the crime.
Westlake was a master of this type of light hearted, fast paced, and utterly beguiling comic mystery. It's not as hard boiled and tough as the Parker novels he wrote under the name Richard Stark. But if you're looking for a fast, fun read, check out SOMEBODY OWES ME MONEY. You'll be glad you did.