Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Tribute to Donald Westlake

David Laurence Wilson sent me this one.

Oh boy, this one hurts. Westlake and I had several friends in common
and all spoke affectionately and respectfully of him, always. His
personality was as large, it seems, as the shadow from his prose.
Everyone else was in second place. I very much hoped to meet him
and add him to my series of interviews with crime writers but we were
never in the same place at the same time. A great writer who may
be my all-time favorite, who convinced me again of the undying beauty
of the novel and the mystery form. For many years there's been no
one who I'd seek out in the bookstores like Westlake. A new Stark
was an event for me. Just a great great loss. I have so few heroes

Death seems to have greeted him as a professional, swift and sudden,
without emotion or hesitation. A Westlake moment. Despite his
subjects, and the controlled mayhem of his characters. Westlake was a
writer of elegance and compassion. I was pleased last week because
I'd found a copy of his first novel. I was going to quote from
another of his books but I've pulled it out often enough that it
wasn't filed with its cousins, a book he did not claim but that I
returned to, on occasion, because it filled me with a great sense of
compassion. It consoled me and made some of life's challenges easier
to bear.

This is the life of a writer. You will touch the lives of those you
have never met. You will help them through their own private hells
and they will weep, someday, when you are gone.

I'll have to go and reread some of my favorite memories with the
guy. He left us so much.

1 comment:

Fred Blosser said...

My first Westlake was actually a Stark, THE SOUR LEMON SCORE, purchased in July 1969 with Ross Macdonald's THE INSTANT ENEMY and Michael Collins' ACT OF FEAR off the pb rack at a G.C. Murphys in Montgomery, WVa. Beat that for a triple play. The Murphys is long gone, and Montgomery itself is barely hanging on. Westlake's books, and especially the Starks, gave me great pleasure over the years. In retrospect, the Parker novels seem to me to be the closest American prose equivalent to RIFIFI and the other spare French crime movies of the '50s and '60s, which I discovered long after reading Stark. I sincerely had hoped and expected that Westlake would be around to mark the 50th anniversary of his first novel in 2010 and the 50th anniversary of Parker in 2012.