Donald Westlake has never written a book, that I know of, about an honest person doing an honest days work. Freddy Noon, the protagonist of this story is unusual in that life is pretty good for him. He dosn't suffer the kind of perpetual disaster of the Sort visited on Dortmunder and Co, but when things go wrong for Fredy, they go very badly wrong. Freddy is a thief that one day makes the mistake of trying to rip off a research establishement. He is captured and turned into a scientific subject. The results of this experiment toss his life upside down and threaten to cost him his girlfriend and launch several threats on his life. This experiment also makes Freddy's career take off.
This book is typical Westlake, which is to say it is very well written, the story moves like an express train, you have a lot of fun reading it and there is no gain to doing so.
Westlake does not have a menagerie of freeks, despite what happens to Freddy he is not a freek, nor does he populate his universe with cardboard cutouts. Freddy is as real and vital. The people in Westlake's books interact in so honest a fashion it startles one to realize what has happend to your sympathies.
This book can also be viewed as an allagory of what life is like in the modern world. All there are is compromises, and you have to give up a great deal for succuess, which might cost you more than the gain is worth. This loss is permenant.
Even the Freddy's name is alegorical. His life is very much the "Urban Noon"