Sacred Monster

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jack Pine, celebrated actor, bon vivant, and, at the moment, still somewhat hazy after a long hard night (what did he do last night?), has seemingly acquiesced to an interview with a journalist, Michael O’Connor, from PEOPLE magazine, wasn’t it? The interviewer, patiently interested and probing, slowly determines the gist of Pine’s life. Pine begins with the “authorized” story, leaving out the things that no journalist should be told, that Pine himself cannot bear to think about.

Pine does not feel well today. Every bit of him aches. He cannot remember what he did yesterday, but that is probably the result of drugs. Pine scrupulously avoids looking at the swimming pool. He guesses that he simply does not like pools, or lakes, or the ocean the way he did once. Between blackouts, Pine is able to delve into the past, prodded by the strangely interested O’Connor, who is not from PEOPLE magazine after all.

In a powerful series of flashbacks, Donald E. Westlake reveals the stunning truth that is the secret of Pine’s success, of his seeming will to destroy himself, and of the puzzling bond between Pine and his oldest friend, Buddy Pal. In the process, the reader is introduced, unwittingly, to yet another of the faces of evil.