It took a while for The Mysterious Bookshop to post the video and even longer for me to put it up here but below is, at last, the video of Levi Stahl, Lawrence Block, and Abby Westlake–introduced by longtime friend, publisher and bookstore owner, Otto Penzler–as they mark the release of The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany at The Mysterious Bookshop on September 29, 2014.
Several more reviews have come in and they all describe Donald Westlake’s books, his non-fiction writing and The Getaway Car in glowing terms.
Michael Dirda did a very nice review for The Washington Post, including this summation:
“In Hooked, one of several hitherto unpublished pieces, Westlake describes how a writer thinks. A novelist, on his way out of the supermarket, ‘notices a woman in sunglasses in the back seat of that black Audi over there. Why is she just sitting in the car? Why in the back seat? Why isn’t she looking around, or reading, or doing something other than just sitting there behind her sunglasses? Halfway across the parking lot, the novelist has worked out a scenario for her that answers those questions.’ It’s an automatic response, he says, a flexing of the story muscles.
Fortunately, Donald E. Westlake did more than flex those muscles: He left grateful readers with one terrific book after another. Perhaps now that Elmore Leonard is ensconced in the Library of America, it’s time that a new generation rediscovered this comparably great storyteller.”
The Daily Beast published an ode-as-review by Malcolm Jones:
“Is a posthumous collection of miscellaneous pieces (even one as smartly edited as this one) a good place to first encounter a writer known for his fiction? Normally I would say no, but in Westlake’s case, there really is no wrong way to approach his work. It is after all his sensibility—funny, fatalistic, humane but never sappy and always a little off kilter—that gives his writing its flavor, and you can find that sensibility in these pages as surely as you can in the novels. Because ultimately Westlake was not this kind of writer, or that kind, not a crime writer, or a satirist, or a comedian. He was just a writer, and as good as they come.”
The Daily Beast also published an excerpt from the book, a letter to a copy editor who had run afoul of Don’s precision with punctuation. Fun read.
William Kristol (yes, that William Kristol), a long-time fan who even suggested Donald Westlake should receive the Nobel Prize for literature, volleyed his praise from behind the paywall at The Wall Street Journal:
“He was a storyteller of amazing inventiveness and range, of comic capers and noir thrillers, of manic romps and melancholy tales, of wacky adventures and clever conceits. His novels are set in the America he lived in. If you were to read widely in the Westlake oeuvre, you’d get a better education in the many complexities of American life than you would if you were to spend years studying for a Ph.D. in sociology or American Studies. (That, I grant, is a low bar.) But, more important, if you were to read widely in Westlake, you’d be endlessly entertained. You’ll be similarly entertained by The Getaway Car.”
Adam Woog of the The Seattle Times wrote:
“This collection of essays, autobiographical notes, interview transcripts and whatnot is a wondrous look into Westlake’s bemused head.”
PD Smith, writing for The Guardian, observed:
“Whether he is writing a letter to his editor or about the history of his genre, he remains true to his definition of what makes a great writer: ‘passion, plus craft.'”
The book was even reviewed by CULTurMAG in Germany, along with several other Westlake books (including a reference to an early euphemism novel that is neither Don’s nor Lawrence Block’s work–oh well). Levi, ever the editor and not trusting the English provided by Google translate, spoke to a staff member at University of Chicago Press with a PhD in medieval German linguistics, who told Levi the following:
“Google Translate did a good job with that blurb you tweeted. The first section, ‘Ein Autor, trotz Fluchtauto, dingfest gemacht,’ marvels at how a university press has found such success with Westlake’s Stark books. The second section, ‘Nahezu unsichtbar als Kommentator,’ also praises the scope of The Getaway Car in terms of the types of material it contains. ‘Living with a Mystery Writer’ discusses the book most directly, particularly the texts the reviewer found most appealing: Lawrence Block’s intro is called ‘informative,’ and Abby Adams’s piece is described as ‘one of the most beautiful/nicest texts’ of the book.
I would argue that overt praise is doled out more sparingly in German reviews (and criticisms offered much more freely—and there don’t appear to be any here), so I think you can consider this review a compliment of the highest order.”
Finally, a local Chicago bookstore recently put out its holiday gift guide and included this blurb about the book:
“The work Levi Stahl has gathered in The Getaway Car reminds us that not only was Donald Westlake one of the best mystery writers of the last century, he was also one of the great American prose stylists. This is an essential collection for all readers, and not just fans of Parker and Dortmunder.”
If you like anything Donald Westlake ever wrote, you should probably get this book.