Donald E. Westlake’s novella Ordo (1977) does not exhibit most of the traits usually associated with literary noir, yet Jean-Patrick Manchette who coined the term néo-polar (neo-detective story) chose it for translation into French for a Rivages edition of 1995. Presumably he did so because the text addresses a complex ontological issue related to the American “melting pot” paradigm of identity and the Hollywood subculture of simulacra. Protagonist Ordo Tupikos wrestles with the conundrum of how Estelle Anlic, to whom he was briefly married in 1958, actually became Dawn Devayne, touted in tabloids as “The World’s Next Sex Goddess.” In the course of an extended visit with the film star in Los Angeles, Tupikos discovers the rhizomatic nature of the American Dream—namely, self-invention—a theme that harks back to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925).

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