Happy 82nd Birthday

don_childhood_portraitUnbeknownst to everyone at the time, the birth of Donald Westlake–82 years ago today–would eventually result in the immaculate conception of more than a dozen other personalities all living within the same man. The best known of these, of course, is Richard Stark, creator of the Parker series. Tucker Coe took up residence a couple decades later and told five stories about the disgraced ex-cop Mitch Tobin before losing interest and moving on to teach criminology at a junior college in Monequois, NY. Less enthusiastically accepted in the gang and, like Pete Best, jettisoned at the first possible opportunity, were Alan Marshall and Edwin West, authors (or co-authors with the alternate personae of Lawrence Block) of nearly two dozen “euphemism” novels, as Don described them.

Several personalities showed up briefly and then disappeared into the wild. Curt Clark, the creator of Nackles, the guy very naughty children hope doesn’t arrive on Christmas Eve, and Anarchaos, a story that takes anarcho-libertarian extremism to its inevitable conclusion, was the dreamer of nightmares. Timothy J. Culver emerged into the world with Ex Officio and then thought better of his participation. J. Morgan Cunningham took the fall for Comfort Station and Judson Jack Carmichael for The Scared Stiff. Samuel Holt tried his hand at being a “new” writer for four novels, but he left when his secret hideout was revealed and it wasn’t fun anymore. The stories told under these pseudonyms are as different and distinct from each other as Parker is from Dortmunder.

Several other transients played with the band for short tours and then departed, never to be heard from again, but all of them contributed to the astounding accomplishment of a man who loved to tell stories and did so even when his given name was, for whatever reason, not suitable for the by-line. Here is where the band is brought back together so fans of one or all of the men living within Donald Westlake can gain an appreciation for the full extent of his abilities.

This website is a continual work in progress, with, among other tidbits, new images from book covers, newly transcribed short fiction and non-fiction and, most recently, quotes and dust jacket blurbs added to individual book and story pages on an ongoing basis. The latest batch of updates is nearly complete and a separate post with all the particulars will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. I celebrate Don’s birthday every time I add new material to this site. You can celebrate it by getting to know one of the names you previously overlooked. Head over to the bibliography and click on a few titles you haven’t seen before and add one or two to your reading list.

Happy birthday, dad.

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9 thoughts on “Happy 82nd Birthday

  1. Wonderful post. My wife Laura Ricardo actually received an official Donald E. Westlake-hand-typewritten note from your dad circa 1997, in response to her groupie/love letter. We later lost it in a house fire, unfortunately, but the memory remains. Mr. Westlake lives on in our love of his Dortmunder novels, especially. Thanks for keeping the flame.
    Don Ricardo JR

    1. Yes. When I am down and depressed I go to Dortmunder. It always helps. Your father was amazing. That one man could write such a widely diverging mass of books amazes me. I like Dortmunder best . Wish he’d written more of them and Sam Holt. Thanks for this site.

      1. If a guy with a storm cloud permanently affixed to the space directly above his head can manage to keep going, surely the rest of us can. That and the laugh-out-loud funny situations are surely a powerful salve. Nice to know my father’s work brightens so many days. Thanks for the visit and the note.

        1. Was your dad raised Roman Catholic? His understanding of things Catholic makes that a pretty sure bet. I loved the save-the-nun book and the poor little brother in the NY monastery. I’m sorry but I can never remember names of books. But the story lines I remember. Again thanks and congratulations on the father you chose. You could have done worse I’m sure.
          Pat Woodbury

    2. That my father was able to produce the amount of quality work that he did, keep meticulous (though somewhat cryptic) records, do the book tours and events, be present for family gatherings, go on vacation, read voraciously, be on time for dinner every night and respond to all or most of his fan mail will never cease to amaze. He clearly managed his time very well. Thanks for the visit and the note.

  2. What a wonderful post. My go to book when I need a lift is Thieves’ Dozen. Lots of Dortmunder and just wonderful.

  3. Just FYI there is an editorial piece by Bill Kristol titled “The Condidence Man” in current National Review magazine that mentions D, Westlake as well as Melville and Twain. As great American writers who portrayed con men.

    1. Thanks for the fyi and the visit. I may try to interview Kristol someday. He’s a huge Westlake fan.

      pw

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