Bad News Analysis

Bad News (Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

John Dortmunder and his buddy Andy Kelp only want to earn a quick thousand dollars for burying an Indian in a New York cemetery, but quickly realize they are to be murdered because dead men tell no tales. Instead, they turn the tables on pompous mastermind Fitzroy Guilderpost and his henchmen, cutting themselves in as equal partners on a multi-million-dollar scam.

Las Vegas showgirl Little Feather, under Guilderpost’s tutelage, will present herself as a legitimate member of one of the three tribes that hold historic title to the reservation on which the gaudy new casino is raking in millions. Naturally her lineage will be questioned. Eventually someone will think of getting a DNA sample from the only known corpse of a genuine Pottaknobbee, which is why Guilderpost is substituting one of Little Feather’s blood relatives for the Pottaknobbee in the cemetery.

Then Dortmunder, even more devious than Guilderpost, guesses that the crooked Indian casino managers, convinced by Little Feather’s cocksure attitude, will think of substituting yet another corpse. Dortmunder and Andy switch headstones so the wrong grave will be dug up, but the casino managers’ bungling amateur ghouls are caught by the cops. A 24-hour guard is placed at the cemetery, making it impossible for Dortmunder to switch headstones back. This leads to a series of zany twists and turns characteristic of Donald E. Westlake’s clever, amusing, irreverent Dortmunder novels which are based on the premise that there’s a little larceny in everybody.