Donald E. Westlake

Yesterday, my husband finished rereading Donald E. Westlake’s “What’s The Worst That Could Happen?” Saturday, I’d picked up a reissue of Westlake’s long-out-of-print “Somebody Owes Me Money,” which I started reading today.

So naturally, there’s been a lot of Westlake-related conversation around the house.

I wondered, for instance, why he doesn’t seem to be a household name. In the unfortunately segregated-in-bookstores crime-fiction genre, he’s massive, but I personally haven’t met anyone who wasn’t pretty heavily into that genre who knew who he was. Which is unfortunate, because he’s one of the best writers I’ve ever read. Unbelievably funny (you know all those internet acronyms, like Rolling On The Floor Laughing My Ass Off With Tears Rolling Down My Cheeks and Sudden Difficulty Breathing? Many of Westlake’s novels bring those to life), and with a gift for plotting that often makes whoever I read next seem as if they’re working in crayon.

And I don’t know if I said this out loud or merely thought it, but my brain definitely formed the thought, “I’m going to be incredibly bummed out when he dies.”

And my next Twitter check informed me that, in fact, he had.


So instead of JUST being incredibly bummed out, I thought I’d put some energy into encouraging you, if you haven’t already, to read his books. He’s written so many that it’s hard to come up with a starting place; my personal favorites, Drowned Hopes and Dancing Aztecs, are both out of print. So I’m just gonna go with: Buy the first title from the Dortmunder series you can find.

Really. You’ll thank me. I love being thanked.

RIP, Donald E. Westlake, 1933-2008. You’ll be missed, sir.

2 Comments  to  Donald E. Westlake

  1. Scott C. says:

    Is Drowned Hopes the one about Dortmunder and the Other Guy investigating the use of scuba gear to retrieve something from a town that was submerged by a dam? (I say “investigating” rather than “used,” since I started the book on a plane, then probably lost at my destination, so I never got past the talking-to-the-guy-in-the-rundown-scuba-shop part.) I do remember enjoying what little I read.

    Novels aside, he deserved an Oscarâ„¢ for The Grifters.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Yes, that’s the one – the Other Guy is completely amoral and reacts to every setback with “OK then, better flood the town.” So Dortmunder, not the world’s most altruistic fellow under normal circumstances, has to come up with a plan to save a ton of people’s lives. It’s awesome.

    And you can’t really expect an Oscar, no matter how deserved, when you’re up against a creative genius like Kevin Costner.