Donald E. Westlake — the gift that keeps on giving — wrote The Fugitive Pigeon in 1965, still fairly early on in his career as a writer but it should be ranked up near the top of the list.

Anthony Boucher of the New York Times Book Review described The Fugitive Pigeon as a “comedy of peril.” An excellent description.

Charlie Poole is innocently working for his mob-affiliated uncle Al, running a lightly-trafficked bar in the Canarsie section of the Bronx, until he suddenly finds himself the center of some decidedly undesirable attention — two mob hit men want to kill him!

Charlie’s efforts to figure out how such an error could have occurred and correct the mistake are classic Westlake. The adventure rolls from Canarsie into Manhattan, to Staten Island and Long Island and Queens.

For some reason all of Staten Island, even the most expensive parts like Princess Bay, has a faintly grubby look, as though everyone had given up years ago in the attempt to keep the place looking bright and cheerful. The most fiery red, exposed a brief while to the aura of Staten Island, fades into a pedestrian tone, modest and a little grimy. The Island, from end to end, has the same feeling as the ferries that service it.

Huguenot Avenue has this aura, in buckets. I walked along past just slightly seedy homes, and past just slightly scuffy fields and copses, and now and then a stretch of farmland, sometimes with dead cornstalks in faded cream rows. A couple of times i passed dirt roads, with rural delivery mailboxes on poles at the edge of the road.

Rural deliver mailboxes, in New York City!

I do not know whether Westlake was a fan of P.G. Wodehouse but there is much about this book that reminds me of Wodehouse.

Funny, well paced, with well drawn characters, it is indeed a “comedy of perils.”

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