DONALD E. WESTLAKE (1933 – 2008) is dead.
An Adventure Mystery, Crime, Noir, Science Fiction, Fantasy and AWESOME writer is DEAD.
And that really sucks.
A prolific, award-winning Mystery Grand Master, the creator of the well loved Dortmunder and Parker books died on New Year’s Eve 2008. He was just 75.
According to the obituary it was a sudden heart attack on New Year’s Eve 2008. He died while on vacation in San Tancho, Mexico.
Westlake was an immensely successful and influential author. Having written more than a book a year since the 1950s. He wrote fiction, in varied genres, non-fiction and even a few screenplays. Never again shall Richard Stark, Tucker Coe, Samuel Holt, Edwin West, John B. Allan, Judson Jack Carmichael, Curt Clark, Timothy J. Culver, J. Morgan Cunningham, Alan Marshall, Alan Marsh, or Donald Westlake pen another work, and for that fact alone my world is a far crappier world.
Many of the obituaries you will read about him will talk about his Edgar Award wins, acclaim for his various works, or his Academy award nominated screenplay of The Grifters (based on the awesome novel by Jim Thompson). That’s not for me. I’m here to praise his writing. Westlake was a book-writer first. He dabbled in Hollywood (and came out with some great stories) but much of his work there was really lame…
Thus I will only speak of my fondness for his books. It started as a whirlwind romance… and it really was love at first sight. I was introduced to Westlake indirectly by a recommendation of a fictional character in another author’s novel. The character (Bernie Rhodenbarr) recommended I give a book by Richard Stark a try. He read just a few lines from what I at first assumed was just a fake book. But I was so entranced, from the snippets that I got curious, hopeful even. It turned out that this “Parker” character that Bernie was reading to me about was in fact a real character in a real book!
It sounded really good and so I made my way to the shelves of my local bookstore and started buying.
Soon after I was buying every book by “Richard Stark” I could lay my hands on. I even convinced my local library to try to get me an inter-library loan for an out of print and very rare (and extremely expensive) Stark novel (Plunder Squad). She had to get it from a library in the Yukon for me. I then discovered a novel in the “Parker series” written by a guy named “Westlake” – it turned out that I had the information slightly off though as Westlake was Stark and the novel in question wasn’t a real novel as much as a novel within another novel (Jimmy The Kid). So I tracked down the rest of that series (the “Dortmunder” series). Since then I came to a major conclusion about the man:
Donald Westlake wrote great books.
I’ve never read a bad Westlake chapter, I’ve never even read a bad Westlake sentence. His books on every subject and genre are full of good writing, fine entertainment and a joy for books.
Westlake is gone.
Westlake was one of my all time favourite authors.
The news that Westlake has died really pisses me off.
I sure wish Parker were around to pull off one more heist.
He was so bad he could have stolen Westlake back for us.
Posted by Jesse Willis