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Donald E. Westlake, R.I.P.

Donald Westlake died yesterday at the age of 75.

He was a giant of the mystery field, master of the comic caper.  I met him a couple of times and he struck me as being a wonderful guy.  I also thought his reviews in the NY TIMES BOOK REVIEW were usually excellent.

He published a couple of stories in F&SF when Avram Davidson was editor: “The Question” (with Laurence Janifer) and “Nackles,” which was published under his “Curt Clark” pseudonym.

The world is a smaller place without him.


4 Responses to “Donald E. Westlake, R.I.P.”

  1. MarcL on January 1st, 2009

    Ah, so many great crime and caper novels, such entertainment from an unassuming writer. My first was HELP, I’M BEING HELD PRISONER, which featured a memorable bit involving a false pencil eraser carefully shaped out of a dog turd. And of course THE HOT ROCK is required reading.

  2. JeffSmith on January 5th, 2009

    I liked “Nackles,” and many many novels and stories by Westlake; I always thought it was a shame that so many lesser mystery writers are always on the bestseller lists, and Westlake sometimes had to struggle to get his books in print. Well, I’ve managed to accumulate almost all of them in some edition or other, and still have quite a few to read and enjoy.

    I once handed him a copy of Dancing Aztecs (a book which should be famous, instead of scandously-long out of print) to sign, explaining that it was a gift for a friend. The friend is dyslexic and was a non-reader, but he heard me discussing and laughing over a Dortmunder novel with another friend, and said he’d like to read that. It took him forever to get through it, a little at a time, but he liked it and asked for another. And another. Westlake taught him the value of reading for pleasure, and he reads routinely now, undaunted even by things like McCulloch’s John Adams biography. Westlake was, as you can imagine, pleased and touched by the story, and I was glad to be able to tell it to him.

    Westlake rather loudly abandoned the sf field in the early 60s, his manifesto appearing in the pages of Pat and Dick Lupoff’s fanzine Xero. That essay, and comments on it from Pohl, Wollheim, Davidson and others, was recently reprinted in the Lupoff’s’ Best of Xero, published by Tachyon.

  3. JeffSmith on January 5th, 2009

    Gordon: My login seems to have slipped. That anonymous Westlake comment was by me.

    Jeff Smith

  4. Todd Mason on September 12th, 2009

    Westlake, as you note, Jeff Smith, kissed off the fantastic-fiction field, but didn’t leave. “Nackles” was published as by Curt Clark (a very curt clerk indeed) in part, at least, since it was published after the XERO “resignation.” As was the novel ANARCHAOS. a fairly interesting but utterly lunatic insult to anarchism that blames pacifist hero Peter Kropotkin, among others, for violent behavior that the Weather Underground wouldn’t apporve of. Given the left-libertarian sentiments Westlake expressed in such even later fiction as “The Winner,” first in Harry Harrison’s original anthology NOVA 1 and widely reprinted in odd spots (such as the Xerox-published classroom magazine READ in the mid-1970s), this foolishness is even more puzzling (though it has been suggested to me that it was an example of displacement, anarchist philosophers getting the Treatment Westlake still wanted to deliver to sf editors). ANARCHAOS and some of the relevant short fiction were collected in the 1989 volume TOMORROW’S CRIMES, and even later, the novel HUMANS was well into the fantastic.

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