The SFFaudio Podcast #618 – The Risk Profession by Donald E. Westlake; read by Gregg Margarite (for LibriVox.org). This is an unabridged reading of the short story (1 hour 4 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Maissa Bessada, and Will Emmons
Talked about on today’s show:
authors like Westlake, seeing the ending coming, Amazing, March 1961, which ending?, a cynical person, when you’re a lawyer…, lawyer brain, ruining your enjoyment?, you feel smart, reading mysteries, ahead of the curve, forgetting the ending every time, a double twist ending, Westlake is amazing, his most Amazing story, he doesn’t like his boss but he puts up with him, fire and theft in New York, space missions, a meta-story, Westlake’s career, a crime story, a locked room mystery, a series, he could easily lose all the money, a triple twist ending, there could have been!, planned all along, contingency plans for everything, he was planning this forever, cleverer than they knew, the worldbuilding, this could have been published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, they don’t seem to have the internet, real last name, Ab and Jafe and Ged, an Expanse story, space stations around Earth, a colony on Luna, a gold rush story, The Expanse, what’s driving this?, brilliant people going out to make their money, Jesse can explain it all, they shrivel up, not mostly Australians, mostly Americans, obsessed with the country in which he lives, The Spy In The Elevator, the theme about government, a hands-off government, the Double RP deal, uninsurables, very rapacious capitalism, definitely his signature, handwriting analysis is not as robust as people want it to be, a part of our toolkit, he actually did sign it, this retirement plan, cash return form, well…there’s a law, they wouldn’t give money if they didn’t have to, the corruption somehow didn’t work that day, the insurance lobby, an insurance investigator, a hidden theme, Evan Lampe’s podcast on Philip K. Dick, Philip K. Dick is obsessed with the frontier, Lovecraft: forgetting and the sea, Westlake is obsessed with insurance, Somebody Owes Me Money, a nephew novel, this weird phenomenon, characterization, the best insurance policy, it seems like if I go with this plan…, why is this in here?, calling Paul Westlake up, his first published story as a professional, government is insurance, helping me not worry about stuff, what taxes are insurance payments, health care, car insurance, the army, in tight alliance with our neighbours, what the RCMP is for, thinking of government as insurance, we have to defend this, Corona virus, starving to death, that payment is insurance, keeping the system stable, an evil universe, anybody who cheats on their CERB is going to be investigated, UBI, telling the company being afraid of its boss, an insight into a terrible, who is the government an insurance policy for?, insurance for the employers, the primary beneficiaries are the stock owners, the WE fake charity, speaking fees, a $14,000 vacation for a minister, if the stockholders are not the general public then they are working for a subset of them, the cynicism is not the focus, an Agatha Christie style locked-room mystery, if it was the government…, the last book, Anarchaos, the absence of insurance companies, a possibility of taking your crime with you, government ideas, ethics, if he wasn’t so greedy, he wouldn’t have gotten away with it, that Scooby Doo ending, alive and in France, they all look exactly the same, Atronics, Chemisant, Ludlum, they sound like things we would get, company towns, how it worked in Anarchaos, Vicco, Kentucky, a ghost town called IOCO (Imperial Oil Company), all the way from Trinidad?, Alcan, through the panama canal, that’s where the power is, if the company goes out of business, those fly-over states, bringing mining back, northern Minnesota, Westlake is incredibly subtle, if you look for the signs, standout lines, there he is, he’s kind of a ghost, the description of the boss and his hands, always smooth, skepticism, the spaceship west of Cairo, the good ship Demeter, g-sickness pills, I was as sick as a dog, as depressing as Turkish bath with all the lights on, a welder’s practice range, a transparent dome would have been more fun, cheap iron, polishing his own spacesuit’s inside, debris, shit orbiting earth, paint chips, some physics problems, jollier, scooters and tuggers, industry troopers, capitalism, the winners of capitalism, square corners painted olive drab, International Atronics Incorporated, high wages, how do you make a vacuum tube?, the tech of the now, he’s putting it in your hand, dribbled down the elevator, the opening of Anarchaos, a milk run, other adventures, Martians, alien insurrections, you don’t even notice, Westlake has opted out, high school, air-force, a Snow top, a white helmeted MP, a set of background for his writing career, hints as to what was striking him, The Man With The Getaway Face by Richard Stark, plastic surgery, Will needs to read that book, falling in love with the author, the driver was an ex-communist party enforcer, Parker was in WWII, be a thief, Westlake started in law enforcement, healthcare, hunger, being in the army is being in a socialist state, he’s a cop in a socialist state, your health insurance, your housing, most people never think about it, Westlake is some kind of weird intellectual, his only way to make a living is to tell people lies, the more interesting your lies are the better your living, my god this is good!, psycho-analyzing his own thing, there’s some substance to it, Tomorrow’s Crimes, the closest to a crime story, a philosopher of crime, he got a lot of letters from prison, prisoners loved his crime books, rats, pulling the perfect job is amazing, once you can’t turn to the cops for help you’re always on his own, he can’t trust his partners, he murders the taxi-man, he’s here to enact his power fantasy in a libertarian state, yay!, a funny way of thinking of what he’s doing, how do you survive in the 20th century?, why would he leave SF?, not financially viable, series is where the money is, science fiction is kind of the opposite of series, its finished, Melinda Snodgrass, fulfilling a role were; not supposed to have, science fiction can be applied to any literary genre, Isaac Asimov, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, we know him from his SF, movies, a tonne of crime, a mystery set in a science fiction universe, I can make the rules, The Caves Of Steel, people don’t go outside, The Hole Man by Larry Niven, Paul’s theory of mysteries, a fair mystery, there’s two suits sitting there, he red-herring’d it, polished his silvered faceplate visor, where the whole thing started, built the whole story around the image, gold in the NASA suits, gold vs. silver, 30 pieces of silver, a different Adams, a lot of domes, the scooters are domes, the asteroid city dome, Finder by Suzanne Palmer, an Apollo Program, understatement, its egg shaped body, green, very army, “the windshield” translucency, floating forever, foreshadowing, we’re him, our hero Jed, he took so long to come home, Will’s a little acquisitive, really empathizing with this story, giant pile of metal, an intellectual exercise, you’re feeling like the guy, Will’s a little bit different than Jesse, an office job, petty bourgeois technician, a life of quiet desperation, Fight Club, breaking his own identity, identity switching, A Bullet For Cinderella, the cultural universe it comes out of, John D. MacDonald, we should eventually do all of the Westlake novels, The Green Eagle Score, the titles run in streaks, Parker robs an air force base, army guys, that rock concert sure is loud, think of all the money from the concessions, scores, a couple of decades between books, see the pattern?, he’s just being playful, he’s a hunter, then he becomes a shark, eventually he gets married, just keep me in flowers and champagne, they start getting silly, he’s got a real sense of humour, cuz sharks don’t laugh at jokes, funny doings, isnights into a person’s character by reading essentially throwaway stories, different from making a movie or a TV show, one person generally, a sense of through-line, wouldn’t you rather know what H. Rider Haggard was thinking than some adaptation of his novel?, too ponderous, Edgar Rice Burroughs, limited success, the way Frankenstein movies gets Frankenstein so wrong, the smartest man who ever lived, I Tarzan you Jane, “Fire bad” vs. soliloquy, learned to speak and read through a crack in a wall, you can’t see those hand gestures, those wry lines, all these flavours of cocktails, bitter but also delicious, rye, very fluffy, it feels so fluffy, so good!, reading Lester Del Rey, so hamfistedly bad, he’ll get you drunk you don’t even know you’re drinking, terribly clunky, For I Am A Jealous People by Lester Del Rey, he’s good at lifting, The Faithful, Reading, Short And Deep, uplifted dogs, dog pilots with surgically altered hands, the last man has died, a very Will story, uplifted gorillas, so badly written, that’s kinda super-racist right there, so hamfisted, a green and lovely world, Man’s creation, worship the memory, Who Can Replace A Man by Brian Aldiss, The Island Of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, WWI, Lester Del Rey is making moves, here’s four more 10 hour novels, Planet Of The Apes by Pierre Boulle, City by Clifford Simak, Desertion by Clifford Simak, Cemetery World, animal stuff, we go sideways, this is a dog man, James Powell, 130 stories, A Dirge For Clowntown, Inspector Bozo, a world worry down on his luck aging clown detective, a clown police procedural in a clown universe, his clown wife, the clowns are the white people, the other race is the mimes, mime on mine violence, Discworld novels, not a fantasist in a normal sense, its just so weird, its its own literary thing, The Code Of The Poodles, episode 81, humorous fantasy crime, The Friends Of Hector Jouvet, A Pocketful Of Noses, a unique voice, Ed Wood, pre-everybody.
Talked about on today’s show:
a serial in All-Story, 1919, WWI, Canadian Army 1915-16, 1917 $150,000, the US Army in 1918, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the state of the magazine industry, four sequels, when Juett was a little kid, a perfect vacation novel, a poncho and a dog, maybe a werewolf, western werewolf novel was a romance, a member of the fey, the Wild Hunt, Connor Kaye, all in reference to The Geat God Pan by Arthur Machen, whistling superpower, animal control, where all the panisci come from, super-rapey, Whistling Dan is zero rapey, a horse named Satan, Black Bart as a pet goat, preternaturally good with his hands and a gun, SFFadjacent, maybe when Dan’s in a coma his spirit is in the dog, under the current, trickles it along, underpainting, following the geese, very mythic, orthogonal migration, snatched from migration, a Clint Eastwood movie with a romance, Italian Spanish American production, Spaghetti Western, the uncanny stuff, his muscles were bigger like those of a caveman, like a mule, bones are bigger, quasi-supernatural, how old is he?, around 10 or 8, a young boy, tame him, lock him in with his daughter, risky, this thing that can’t be tamed, the daughter has a calming effect on all the characters in the novel, Max Brand has a whole bunch of ideas about how women and men interact, ‘women in general are hell, women in particular are heaven’, Buck’s mother, she’s the MacGuffin, he tasted his own blood, where is this supposed to be located, the Black Hills?, Dakota Territory?, high desert, Westworld, putting our something people really wanted to have, Steam-Man Of The Prairies, neo-Westerns, the premium entertainment, overseas fans, THE American literature, Henry James, Quigley Down Under (1990), Paul didn’t understand Westerns, The New Yorker, Paul’s better now, a question about the Western, who read the western?, the working class, Mechanic Accents: Dime Novels And Working Class Culture by Michael Denning, think about the reader, unreachable life, living in Kentucky, Kentucky heritage, Jesse and Frank James, Kit Carson’s farm, Boonesborough, pioneer people, The Crossing, Carradines, two reasons, Germans in the mountains, Karl May, a German immigrant to the West makes friends with a native Indian and travel the land like Kung-Fu, The Lone Ranger, persistently popular, Stephen King, Edgar Rice Burrough’s tomb, Karl May’s tomb, influence on the Nazis, noble savage, German interest in Indians, hiking in the nature of the West, Leavenworth, Washington (state), the Mountie, Argosy and All-Story, pulp hero, western outlaws in Canada, a northern west, the Klondike, Death Hunt (1981), Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson, Louis Riel, the Northwest Rebellion, super-religious, less exciting a hero, people should be treated nicely, mental illness, a massive shitshow, the Black Hills and the Dakotas, Deadwood, like the Kurds, Jesse psyched himself out, disenfranchised like the Metis, including Canada in America, our attitude as settler colonists, Allan Quatermain, colonial literature, this strange other place for the guys on the bus going to their factory job, Andrew Jackson, Farmer In The Sky, transplanting sci-fi stories to western motifs, Han Solo’s low slung holster, Wagon Train to the stars (Star Trek), Firefly/Serenity, race never comes up, good guys are white guys, The Efficiency Expert, the lynching that their planning, he’s a criminal and they’re fed up, transplanting this story to Mars, Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick, steer rustlers and bank robbers, the strangest creature under the sun, an unoccupied mars, no dying race there, these Bleekmen, Australian aborigines, a Dreamtime sort of culture, long riders in the Pampas, on the other side of the planet, the Mongols, South Africa, sheep in Australia, a samurai story, Red Country by Joe Abercrombie, a settler colony, colonial literature, wholly artificial, a confection that could appeal to regular romantics, all the set dressing of a western we think of, a lot of talkin’, colonialism without genocide, no Civil War, the first ever gunfight (duels), innocence of our protagonist, he becomes a fighter, is this how naive you really are?, a natural creature, pulled out of nature, the werewolf chapter, was he a wolf who was turned into a man?, he doesn’t understand human emotion, the story of Dexter, traumatized, gave him a code to build his psychopathy around, he’s got a sister, blood daughter, the two actors hooked up, you were raised together, he’s like your brother he’s not your brother, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, super-ego advice on screen, James Remar, he’s OP, you really rolled up this character, he’s definitely a fake, he’s not human, a DEX of 20, WIS level 4, Once Upon A Time In The West, A Fistful Of Dynamite, The Good The Bad And The Ugly, Luke Short, Louis L’Amour, Celtic origins, Zane Grey, the Asimov and the Heinlein and the Clarke, overlapping, he fought in WWI twice and died in Italy in WWII, William Hope Hodgson, artillery officer killed in WWI, a massive output in 15 years, their background stories, eerie similar deaths, The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Chief Dan George, he plays the Indian, a southern outlaw bandit who used to be a confederate, a little something extra, High Plains Drifter (1973), a ghost, ‘he was a ghost the whole time’, this weird false reality created by books just like this, where Whistling Dan lives, its a mythic plane, a hyper reality, the Harry Potter world of the West, a supervillain matched by a superhero, arcs of hyperbole, largely the appeal, the same disposibility and the same addiction, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel “Natty” Bumppo, pre-western, proto-western, there’s no state, there’s no capitalism, the Wild West was a colonial enterprise, kind of ridiculous, what do the readers get out of this?, Michael Mann movie The Last of the Mohicans (1992), those cattle are going to market somewhere, what year is it set?, before the Civil War?, the perpetual old-west, what Westworld is all about, a re-creation of a steady state fantasy West, the saloon gets knocked down/burned down, he feared its influence, the whole revenge thing, at the end when he takes the disc out of his pocket, one of the coins, what is he whispering, waiting for that other coin to drop, an ideological deus ex-machina, Marshals can do no wrong in Portland, what congress is, every time there is some sort of problem they add a new bureaucracy, a massive list of acronyms, Marshals Service, the reason Canada has its shape, all in reaction to what the United States is going to do, 54-40 or Fight, North-West Territory, squad of troops, the state police for the country, government bounty hunters, trail outlaws, he’s on a case, he’s supposed to bring in Jim Silent, in the middle, a little corrupt, Wyatt Earp, outlaw/good guy, the colour of the badge, Justified, based on the Elmore Leonard story Fire In The Hole, the Lexington Court House, filmed in L.A., The Dukes Of Hazzard, a modern western, The A-Team, mini-14, G.I. Joe shooting down Cobra airplanes, ultra-fake violence, Bo and Luke Duke were moonshiners?, bows and arrows because they were on probation?, what replaced the pulp magazines, a continuous stream, Ward Shelly’s The History Of Science Fiction poster, the imagination of what the printers are selling to the easterners, go west young man, Karl May never came here, the trick-shot, the four coins, the Sheriff’s department at Midway, three bottles, the crazy figures, Joe Arpaio, you’re going to go out back and shoot bottles, Jesse’s time-stop dream power, Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, you can’t stop time in a multi-player game, story based vs. massively multiplayer, western themes in Fallout, a fantasy sub-genre not recognized as such, Buck Daniels, tamed him, where was he?, his other wild things, Pan induces panic, his presence, what did that?, Buck is the villain in the second novel, why you dont read the second book in the series, The Call Of The Wild by Jack London, its almost like racism, house dogs and yard dogs, he’s not a lapdog, he’s not a hunting dog, he’s a favourite of the judge, a journey of self-discovery, I don’t need masters, I need to be wolf, a dog-wolf story, White Fang as a reversal of The Call Of The Wild, influenced, typically Star Wars writing, ohhh the turn, the wild geese, symbolically joining them again, assembling a menagerie, the horse, the birds, the wolf-dog, that whole idea of Kung-Fu, mixing a dying genre with a very hip genre, well see the Chinese knew kung-fu, right back to the comics, Shag-shi, Fu Manchu, Iron Fist, exoticizing, where everybody makes you have face tattoos, putting a lei around your neck isn’t stolen valour, oooh a real Indian to play an Indian, like Tonto, they thought that was awesome, they loved wrestling, that *IS* awesome, who is being exploited, that’s a great character, that’s a great role, Sandra Locke and Clint Eastwood and Chief Dan George, where’s the harm, dressing up in costumes is cool, its the bad fucking that’s bad, bulldozing land, when politicians are seen wearing headdresses, trying to curry sympathy, we’ll treat you like family, politician are bad actors, eradicated from the landscape, what makes it so fantastic, there are no Apache, no Blackfoot, cultural motifs, cultural ammunition for empire, not as innocuous as Jesse thinks, more fantastic that Philip K. Dick’s Martian Time Slip, more fantastic that A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, movies based on this book, Tom Mix, Paint Your Wagon (1969), a native character would disrupt what is going on, Dan and his animals, Dan’s animals are happy slaves, a psychic beat-down, a sought after horse, I want the dog, the pieces of Dan, they want to colonize Dan, who is The Untamed?, all of Eastwood’s characters, Yojimbo or The Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa movies, 1950, five years after WWII, they go back in time, there is not Japanese Empire, western tech in a medieval kingdom, Toshiro Mifune, perfectly adapts to a western, A Fistful Of Dollars (1964), Yojimbo (1961), a border war, where’s the trauma coming from to make this western fantasy?, friendless nameless, changes things up and leaves town, the period staying in town, this neighbourhood needs cleaning up, killing all those Indians in the west, fairy tales, not based on a real person, the fantasy to cover up genocide or covering up what the West actually was, megacorporations, cow punchers replaced by ranchers, a couple of decades, your grandfather or great-grandfather, our perspective of WWII, Inglourious Basterds (2009), a fairy tale about WWII, the Sundance Kid, bank robberies happened, train robbery, Jonah Hex is real and still wandering the west, not a future Hex, bad ideas, Conan the Barbarian with a laser sword, Jesse’s not having it, 70s and 60s western comics, a lotta superhero comics, straight up westerns coming out of Marvel and DC, the Rawhide Kid, a Wolverine berserker rage, in trouble in his own head, a Stan Lee character, western characters, cops are there, cops are a hindrance to the action, the comic code authority, turning super-heroes into the big thing they were, superheros as propaganda for law and order, Billy The Kid, Spider Man is an outlaw, Captain America, cops took over TV, lawyer shows, so many cop shows, all of these cops are good, the 87th Precinct novels, murders, con men, New York turned upside down, NCIS shows, Law & Order shows, NYPD Blue, Cop Rock, the solution to all problems is more cops, private detective stories and shows, breaking the rules, the cops themselves become the ruler breakers, Dirty Harry, NYPD Blue normalized torture, a standard thing, the bosses knew, 24, bad cops, 24 was theoretically about foreign policy, small scale, we built him until he confesses, The Shield, Homicide: Life On The Streets, based on a book, based on a reality, Will should be stepping up here, the powers of the state are such they’ll get you, you don’t need to beat anybody, people don’t want to be pressured, false confessions, where’s Will in all this?, circle it back to the book we just read, the stateless west, free men doing their thing, a few women, wifes or prostitutes, crooked sheriff, bring the state to be with them, Tex, when he throws down the tin star, an agent of civilization, a stateless place, what we know about civilization, so trusting, the marshals are different, the dignified congressional types, the passing of the marshals’ badge, deputization and posses, you take the lynch mob and they become a posse, power conferred, all the beatings, all the murders were in the name of the law, indemnified, deep down, the core idea, fantasies of what future we can make, what past we can recreate, fantasizing about a time that didn’t exist, what was actually going on, the people will not be restrained, why sequels never help, The Night Horsemen, Dan Berry’s Daughter, cowgirls are fun too, a tragedy, about loss, in the shadow of a famous western hero, regional hero, tall tale people, Wild Bill Hickok, Daniel Boone, a famous figure, Jonah Hex didn’t actually exist, Jesse James, his mother’s hotel, the blood of this dude is still on that floor, any class going on in this story?, no race, no class, basically wholly about the romance of this dude, the way people fawn on him being interesting, one’s a whistler and one’s silent, neither of them are talking, descriptive passages, slightly back to our SFF theme, astronaut Dan Berry discovered it was impossible to whistle while on a moonwalk, the language in this book, poetic scene setting, clear and plain, poetic without being florid, Richard Kilmer (the narrator), unadorned, his Dr. Kildare books, mythologies about the west, Robert E. Howard’s letters to H.P. Lovecraft, violence in its cultural context, when a mob broke into the jail, what was the difference between a hanging and a shooting, this person must die under the law, poisoning vs. shooting, the difference was treachery, they push so hard for Assad and gas, dropping bombs on people vs. gassing people, your boy was killed right and proper, poison gas vs. electric chair, its not the proper forms!, completely unthinking, Raytheon has been deputized by the government, Little House On The Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, a western vs. a story that takes place in the West, a lone man doing something, cooperative action, The Big Valley, The Ponderosa, Lorne Greene, everything’s going to be fine, momless three boys, The Wild Wild West, the Desilu production, secret service, Deadwood with George Hearst, the Hearst magazines, a fantasy genre, a really strange subgenre, the romance of the setting vs. the romance of the setup, they were loosed in the void of the mountain desert, the power which struck, Three In One?, Baby Is Three by Theordore Sturgeon, fantastique, Riders On The Purple Sage by Zane Grey, a hooded man, modern weird westerns, Saladin Ahmed, Rebecca Roanhorse, Riders Of The Purple Wage by Philip Jose Farmer, pastiche of Ulysses, UBI, a dense novella, Silver On The Road by Laura Anne Gilman, Algis Budrys, the Dark Tower novels, Maine, Dead Man’s Hand edited by John Joseph, more and more less and less, an exercise in self-indulgence, Bone Tomahawk, Hell Or High Water (2016), The Sixth Gun, their truck is their horse, neo-western, a life under horrible capitalism western, no more talk about the book.