Put a Lid on it
So far, of Donald E. Westlake's novels, I've only read several of his Dortmunder books, e.g. Good Behavior. This changed with Put a Lid on it, which is a standalone novel, though with much of the feeling of a Dortmunder novel, and the same wry humour.
Certainly the hero, Francis Meehan, caught while attempting to steal a US postal service truck he thought held computer parts, is an even more unlucky criminal than Dortmunder. Thanks to his botched robbery, he is now looking to a loong stretch in a federal prison, rather than the "cozy" New York state prisons he was used to. Lucky for him then that Pat Jeffords, a highly placed political advisor to the current president has a little job for him: recover an embarassing videotape from the president's opponent in trade for his freedom...
Meehan may be unlucky, he ain't stupid and he takes his own precautions to avoid being screwed over at the end of the deal. He contacts the lawyer the state had gotten him for his trial to represent him to his "employers" and also plans to make a bit of money on the side by not just stealing the videotape, but also the very valuable firearm collection it is housed with...
All very sensible, but Meehan quickly finds out he needs to worry less about deliberate betrayals by his employers as he has to about their tendency not to be able to keep a secret, to not "put a lid on it", so to speak.
There's the usual Westlake humour here, which is situation based: the characters are all deadly serious, it's the situations Westlake puts them in that are funny. In Put a Lid on it, Westlake also gets much mileage from milking the differences and similarities between the world of the professional criminal and politics. To give a flavour of the novel, I'll leave you with the following quote, too good not to show in full:
Quote nicked from Outside of a dog.
Webpage created 30-01-2005, last updated 27-05-2005