"Come Back, Come Back," by Donald E. Westlake, in Levine, 1984.
Well, it has happened again. For the second time in fifteen months I haven't read any new stories I liked enough to write about here, so I am going to review one of my all-time favorite stories.
I actually read this one as a teenager in one of those Alfred Hitchcock paperback story collections. It was my first introduction to Donald E. Westlake, and while I always remembered the story, it was many years before I connected this tale with the author of so many comic crime classics.
In the early sixties Westlake wrote a series of stories about Abe Levine, a New York City cop with one distinguishing feature: he has a heart condition which he quite reasonably fears will kill him. So each of his cases is colored by this, you might say, existential lens.
Take this story. Levine and his partner are rushed to a skyscraper where a businessman is threatening to jump off a high ledge. See the ironic contrast: a young, healthy, successful man who apparently wants to die and Levine, a middle-aged, broke, cop with a heart condition who desperately wants to live. Can these two guys teach each other anything?
A stunning piece of work and a demonstration of the unusual things that can be done in the name of crime fiction.