I've been suffering with the flu the last few days, so I haven't been online much. When I checked my e-mail last night before going to bed, I had a note from Craig Zablo notifying me of the passing of one of my all-time favorite authors, Donald E. Westlake. My head swimming with cold meds, it's taken until now for me to feel coherent enough to write about this sad event.
I can't begin to describe what an influence Westlake's writing has been – and continues to be – to me. A prolific, award-winning author of around a hundred novels and several screenplays (including The Grifters, based on the novel by Jim Thompson), Westlake also wrote under various pseudonyms, the most notable being "Richard Stark." It was under the Stark name that he wrote his series of hardboiled caper novels starring the the single-named antihero, Parker.
Under his own name, he was best known for his comic crime novels, especially those featuring a New York heist artist named Dortmunder and his accomplices, whose capers never quite seemed to go as planned. I adore these books, and recently re-read six of them in rapid succession over about a week. They're that good and that much fun.
For many years now, Westlake has been among my top five favorite authors, one of those who – even when money is/was tight – I tried to keep up with. His Parker novels, in particular, have really resonated with me as a reader and writer, not only influencing my own Gravedigger comic character and his universe, but leading me toward a general preference for the more amoral, antiheroic fictional characters.
Westlake was 75.