Friday, January 02, 2009

Donald E. Westlake, RIP

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.

5 comments:

Craig Zablo said...

Hey Chris,

I was sorry to pass on the news to you, but I knew that if you hadn't posted it, you probably didn't know yet.

When I first read about Mr. Westlake's passing, three names came to mind: Stephen King, Duane Swierczynski, and you. I knew how much Mr. Westlake's writing had influenced the three of you. We all feel a bit poorer for the loss of the man, but, as cliche as it is, his writing lives on.

You wrote a nice tribute.

Get better soon.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sad to hear about this.

Steve-O said...

Thanks for your words on Mr. Westlake. I've been a fan of Femme Noir for a while now but I never got to your blog. It's excellent. I publish Noir of the Week http://www.noiroftheweek.com

Stop by sometime and we can talk pulp. I'd love a link from your site sometime if you are feeling generous.

Time to dig out The Grifters and Point Blank.

Chad Carter said...

The biggest influence of my adult life is Richard Stark. It's times like these when you wonder what kind of world could REALLY be left behind, without a talent like Westlake in it.

And I never wanted to know.

El Vox said...

I wasn't familar with Westlake, so thanks for pointing out another gifted writer that unfortuately has passed, but hopefully I can find something to read by him.

Get well, and prosper, now where have I heard that before?