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Literature / Forever and a Death

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A Posthumously published Donald Westlake novel based off off an idea for an unused James Bond story. George Manville is an engineer working for industrialist Richard Curtis, a man embittered by his business losses when Hong Kong was returned to the Chinese. A group of environmental protestors led by Jerry Deirdich, Kim Baldur and Luther Rickendorf protest Curtis and Manville's new type of undersea demolition. When Kim is badly injured during the process and picked up by Curtis' yacht, Curtis seizes upon the opportunity to kill her, in order to further discredit the environmentalists who've been causing him so much problem. While trying to convince George to help him, Curtis lets slip a little boat his Evil Plan to seek revenge upon Hong Kong with George's new device. Instead, George saves Kim's life, and the two go on the run, trying to expose Curtis and stay ahead of his henchman, as the countdown to his plan approaches.

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Tropes:

  • Adult Fear: Kim's parents initially think that she did die while protesting against Curtis due to him spreading that story.
  • The Alcoholic: Colin Bennett. It caused him to make a mistake which killed a man and got him blackballed in the industry, just making him worse.
  • Break the Haughty: Mark undergoes a heroic version after he's caught spying on Curtis and Made a Slave on one of his construction gangs.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Curtis spends a while keeping George alive to try and recruit him as an active accomplice in his plan, or at least get further technical expertise out of him.
  • Co-Dragons: Former pot smuggler Morgan Pillager, Curtis's former construction foreman turned lackey Colin Bennett and Hong Kong racketeer Jackie Tian are all Curtis henchmen with a fair amount of prominence and authority, although not at all the same time.
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  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Richard Curtis was always a corner-cutter and bullying executive but is living off of investors money at the moment (over-selling shares in projects) and plans to steal all the gold in Hong Kong's bak and flood half the city to cover it up.
  • Guilt-Ridden Accomplice: The captain of Curtis's yacht is confused and conflicted about the whole coverup and murder plot. Soon he is Driven to Suicide.
  • Humble Goal: In contrast to Curtis's grand schemes, his henchman Pallifer and Bennet have more modest dreams in spite of the horrible things they do on his behalf. Pallfier wants to own his own boat, and Bennett just wants back his old job as a trusted, low-level employee for Curtis's company (at least initially).
  • It's Personal: Curtis is convinced that there's more to Jerry's dogging of his projects than simple environmental activism. He's right, Jerry's first boyfriend died working on a construction project for Curtis and it got covered up.
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  • The Lost Lenore: Curtis did love his long dead first wife and feels any other woman isn his life is a pale imitation of her.
  • Manly Gay: Luther is gay, and is a fit, brawny guy who isn't the least bit effeminate and has an Action Hero moment of sorts in the climax.
  • The Mole: Curtis's employee Mark is feeding Jerry and his environmental protestors information about his projects.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: A twisted version, as the unemployed Bennet views Curtis re-hiring him (even for criminal jobs) to be his chance to restart.
  • Not Me This Time: Curtis is responsible for a great many bad things but wasn't the one personally responsible for either the death of Jerry's boyfriend or the cover-up, something that Bennett eventually lampshades.
  • Out of Focus: George disappears for a large portion of the novel near the middle, after being captured by Curtis then escaping, as the story follows Kim for a while.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted. Tony Fairchild, Wai Fung and Hartin Ha (the detectives George and Kim deal with in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong respectively) are all practical, reasonable men who do their jobs and diligently investigate the claims of George, Kim and Jerry, albeit with a bit of careful skepticism at first.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Bennett after torturing Jerry by shoving a sock into his mouth and keeping it forcibly shut to nearly suffocate him]] then proceeds to tell him that He Knows Too Much and remind him of an old saying about keeping quiet: specifically "Put a sock in it."
  • Science Hero: George and his engineering degree, which Curtis initially is trying to use for his benefit, save the day.
  • Smug Snake: Richard Curtis is a very self-satisfied man, and he does have a grand, ruthless plan and vast business empire, but the worst Bond villain, on his worst day, would still be a bigger threat than him, given his tendency for stupid decisions.
  • Unknown Rival: Zigzagged. Curtis knows fully well that Jerry has been interfering with his businesses for some personal vendetta, but he never has any idea why Jerry is singling him out.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Subverted. Curtis tries to change and adapt his plan when things go wrong, but he's kind of bad at it. It even gets him killed when his decision to personally kill the drivers of the submarine with the gold leaves him with no one to help him transfer the gold to his yacht and he drowns in the process.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Pallifer murders two men who George wounded for being useless. Curtis himself tends to see his henchmen as expendable as well and even kills some himself.
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