Donald E. Westlake

Donald Edwin Westlake was a noteworthy American author of the science fiction and crime genre. Being born in the year 1933, Westlake died in the year 2008 at the age of 75 after writing hundreds of novels and nonfiction books. Although the crime and science fiction genres were his specialty, he used to write in other genres as well. Westlake has been awarded the Edgar Award three times in his career. He was also one of the three writers to have won this award in three different categories. He was also bestowed with the highest honor of a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in the year 1993. Donald Westlake was born in the Brooklyn, New York and was raised in Albany. He was very fond of writing as a teenager and used to pen down anything that would come to his mind. But his dream of becoming an author was not achieved easily.

Donald Westlake had to face rejections more than 200 times in the beginning. It was after all those struggles that he sold his first story in the year 1954. Westlake joined the Champlain College of Plattsburgh in New York and continued to write and sell several short stories. He later attended the Harpur College in Binghamton and served in the United States Air Force for a period of two years after getting graduated. He became a full time writer after leaving the air force while still searching for a job in a literacy agency. With the hope of getting a job, Westlake moved to New York City in the year 1959. He wrote his first novel under his own name with the title ‘The Mercenaries’. This novel was published in the year 1960. In his career of 48 years as a full time writer, Westlake has written his novels under numerous pseudonyms. He has published his novels and short stories under his own name along with several pseudonyms including Richard Stark, Alan Marshall, James Blue, Ben Christopher, Andrew Shaw, Samuel Holt, Judson Jack Carmichael and a few others as well. Westlake has married three times and his latest marriage was with Abigail Adams, who is a writer of the nonfiction genre. He moved to Ancram along with his newly wedded wife in the year 1990.

Westlake suffered a heart attack in December 2008 and breathed his last breath. He was on a New Year vacation with his wife in Mexico. After his death, Abby Adams has opened Westlake Garden in the memory of Donald Westlake, which is allowed for public viewing during summers. Most of the novels written by Westlake have been set up in New York City. He was well known for his writing style and lively dialogues. Westlake has penned a number of famous characters with lively characteristics. Parker, a hard-boiled criminal and John Dortmunder, a fun flip-side of Parker are a couple of famous characters who feature in most of his novels. Several novels of Westlake have been adapted into motion pictures. Point Blank, Payback, Parker, Bank Shot, etc. are a few well known films adapted from Westlakes novels. Donald Westlake was also a screenwriter, having written the screenplay of films like The Grifters and The Stepfather. He even wrote a teleplay named Fatal Confession. His treatment written for the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies was adapted by many screenwriters for their movies. The following is a description of the first couple of books written by Westlake:

The first crime thriller written by Donald Westlake was ‘The Hunter’ which he wrote in the year 1962. Westlake used the pen name Richard Stark for this novel. The Hunter is a genuine crime thriller revolving around the life of the fictional character named Parker. Parker is a criminal by profession and specializes in armed robbery. He follows a pattern of committing a lucrative heist and enjoys a luxurious life along with his wife Lynn for a few months. He used to continue with his heist of crimes in order to prolong his luxurious life. He gets double crossed on one such heist by Mal Resnick, who convinces Lynn to shoot Parker while in Bed and enjoy the luxurious with him. Parker survives the attack, but gets imprisoned. Lynn moves ahead in life along with Mal. Parker escapes the prison using an identity theft and tracks down Lynn, who is left alone by Mal. She regrets her decision of betraying Parker and commits suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. Parker goes on the trail of Mal Resnick to avenge the his losses. He tracks down Mal and causes monetary losses to him by acquiring full knowledge about his business. He also kills his aids in the process. Finally, Parker decides to have a plastic surgery and change his appearance so as to enjoy the rest of his days peacefully in Florida. The novel was published by ‘Perma Books’ and later served as the basis of the crime thriller movies Point Blank starring Lee Marvin and released in the year 1967 as well as Payback starring Mel Gibson and released in the year 1999. Initially, Westlake wrote the novel as a stand-alone crime novel, but when the publishers asked him to rewrite the end of the novel, Westlake went on to write 23 more novels over the period of 46 years. The novel got re-issued in 2008 by the University of Chicago Press.

The next novel written by Donald Westlake under the pen name of Richard Stark and featuring Parker was named ‘The Man with the Getaway Face’ and was published in the year 1963. The novel was titled ‘The Steel Hit’ in the US. The plot of the second novel continues from the end of the second novel. Parker has surgically altered his appearance and escaped with Mal Resnick’s money. Soon he becomes desperate for money after spending all that he had and decides to join his old associates Handy McKay and Skimm. The group decides to loot and armored car in New Jersey. Parker and Handy realize that Alma, Skimm’s girlfriend is going to betray them. Moreover, one of the employees of Dr. Adler blackmails Parker to reveal his true identity to his enemies. Dr. Adler is the one who had performed the plastic surgery to alter Parker’s appearance. Soon Dr. Adler gets murdered and Parker gets the blame of murdering him. This leaves him in a web of treachery and unpleasant events. He has to again strive hard get himself cleared of all the blame. The novel takes interesting turns to show the ups and downs of Parker’s life. It depicts Parker’s clever mind to get out of every situation. This novel was also re-issued by the Chicago University Press in the year 2008. The cartoonist Darwyn Cooke adapted the novel into a short pamphlet in 2010. The adaptation served as the first chapter of Darwyn’s graphic novel adaptation and was released in the following year.

Books in order of publication:

Phil Crawford Books

Backstage Love(1959) 
All the Girls Were Willing(1960) 
Sin Prowl(1963) 

Parker Books

The Hunter(1962) 
The Man With the Getaway Face(1963) 
The Outfit(1963) 
The Mourner(1963) 
The Score(1964) 
The Jugger(1965) 
The Seventh(1966) 
The Handle(1966) 
The Green Eagle Score(1967) 
The Rare Coin Score(1967) 
The Black Ice Score(1969) 
The Sour Lemon Score(1969) 
Deadly Edge(1971) 
Plunder Squad(1972) 
Butcher’s Moon(1974) 
Nobody Runs Forever(2004) 
Ask the Parrot(2006) 
Dirty Money(2008) 

Mitchell Tobin Books

Kinds of Love, Kinds of Death(1966) 
Murder Among Children(1967) 
Wax Apple(1970) 
A Jade in Aries(1970) 
Don’t Lie To Me(1972) 

Alan Grofield Books

The Damsel(1967) 
The Blackbird(1969) 
The Dame(1969) 
Lemons Never Lie(1971) 

Dortmunder Books

The Hot Rock(1970) 
Bank Shot(1972) 
Jimmy the Kid(1974) 
Nobody’s Perfect(1977) 
Why Me?(1983) 
Good Behavior(1985) 
Drowned Hopes(1990) 
Don’t Ask(1993) 
What’s The Worst That Could Happen?(1996) 
Bad News(2001) 
The Road to Ruin(2004) 
Watch Your Back!(2005) 
What’s So Funny?(2007) 
Get Real(2009) 

Sam Holt Books

One of Us is Wrong(1986) 
I Know a Trick Worth Two of That(1986) 
What I Tell You Three Times is False(1987) 
The Fourth Dimension is Death(1989) 

Sara Joslyn Books

Trust Me On This(1988) 
Baby, Would I Lie?(1994) 

Standalone Novels

Man Hungry(1959) 
All My Lovers(1959) 
The Wife Next Door(1960) 
A Girl Called Honey(1960) 
The Mercenaries(1960) 
So Willing(1960) 
All About Annette(1960) 
Virgin’s Summer(1960) 
Passion’s Playthings(1961) 
Call Me Sinner(1961) 
Campus Doll(1961) 
Brother and Sister(1961) 
Off Limits(1961) 
Killing Time(1961) 
Young and Innocent(1961) 
Strange Affair(1962) 
Campus Lovers(1963) 
Pity Him Afterwards(1964) 
The Fugitive Pigeon(1965) 
The Busy Body(1966) 
The Spy in the Ointment(1966) 
God Save the Mark(1967) 
Who Stole Sassi Manoon?(1968) 
Up Your Banners(1969) 
Somebody Owes Me Money(1969) 
Ex Officio(1970) 
Adios Scheherezade(1970) 
Comfort Station(1970) 
I Gave at the Office(1971) 
Cops and Robbers(1972) 
Help! I Am Being Held Prisoner(1974) 
Brothers Keepers(1975) 
Two Much(1975) 
Dancing Aztecs(1976) 
Castle in the Air(1980) 
A Likely Story(1984) 
High Adventure(1985) 
The Ax(1997) 
The Hook(2000) 
The Scared Stiff(2002) 
Put a Lid On It(2002) 
Money For Nothing(2003) 
The Comedy is Finished(2012) 
Forever and a Death(2017) 

Non-Fiction Book

The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany(2014)
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