Veronica (short) (1951) – The Vincentian

Veronica and My Father’s Chair are the earliest published Westlake stories in Don’s personal collection. In May of 1951, Don was still two months shy of his eighteenth birthday. He was the author of two short stories in his high school’s literary publication, The Vincentian, as well as one of two literary editors for the magazine. The two stories represent what is likely the very first Westlake stories ever published. Click on the gallery to read the story in full in its original form. You can also see the cover, title, contents and attribution pages, as well as messages from friends written in the margins. This wasn’t the yearbook for the school but Don appears to have treated it as such to some degree. And why not?

 

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4 thoughts on “Veronica (short) (1951) – The Vincentian

  1. Paul: Quite by accident I discovered that you were now maintaing the DEW web site. Bravo. Multo Bravo.
    It was the Gold Medal paperback reissue of The Hunter that introduced me to Richard Stark, and, in fact, made me an addict. I caught up with the earlier Stark PocketBook editions (which I bought from, of all people, Harlan Ellison). Love those Harry Bennett covers on the PB’s.
    One of my fondest memories is the mis-quote from Anthony Boucher on the cover of Butcher’s Moon, “Nobody tops Stark in his portrayal of a world of total immorality.” Mr. Boucher properly wrote amorality.
    Is there any chance of you posting the scathing good-bye to science fiction that DEW reportedly wrote.
    Nice job on the site!
    –PF

    1. Peter,

      So sorry for the delayed reply! If you’ve seen my last posts, you know that significant life changes have occupied my time. But enough of that.

      Thank you for the kind words. I’m most gratified by the pleasure maintaining this site brings to my father’s many fans around the world.

      I’m amazed at how many typos I find in published books, especially now that I’m (slowly!) combing through my father’s library to reconstruct his bibliography. But once the final proofs go to print, the cost of making fixes etches those typos in stone, as it were.

      I’ve certainly considered publishing the “farewell to sci-fi” letter my father penned but I’d have to consult with a few others before pulling that trigger. If I do, I’ll be sure to mention it in a new blog post.

      Thanks for visiting and for sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated!

      Best,
      Pw

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this rare gem. It’s fascinating to see that, with this early piece of writing, Donald Westlake was working with the very same theme that became the center of most of his published work — the theme of someone defying social order to better their own life. Whether it’s a career criminal or a young boy with the unfortunate nickname of “Veronica,” Westlake’s primary characters are often anti-heroes who stand up for themselves, causing ripples in the social order. William/Veronica is perhaps the first appearance of the character type that Westlake would take to chilling extremes with novels like The Ax, in which a downtrodden, downsized man finds a way to defeat his competitors. It’s also interesting to see that the Westlake “voice” is present in this piece — a very intimate, confiding voice you can trust — no BS. I was also fascinated to see that Westlake’s writerly obsession on names and labels is present in this early story. There’s an Irish cop in the Dortmunder series who struggles with his name, and there’s “Diddums,” the awkward moniker Dortmunder saddles himself with (it’s Welsh). In Nobody Runs Forever (2004) a police detective has taken control of her life by changing her name from “Wendy” to “Gwen.” This early piece is exactly what one would would want from a writer’s first work — an adept, astonishingly complete appearance of the author’s themes and voice. Thank you so much for unearthing this and sharing it with the world. – Paul Tumey

    1. Paul,

      Thank you for your insightful commentary. I completely agree with your assessment. For a “stream of consciousness” writer, Don was extremely meticulous in his character and setting details. There is precious little in any of his work that didn’t advance the story or the character development in some way.

      Don’s mother, Lillian, had a thing for creating initials that would spell words. Thus Don was born as D.E.W. But she forgot that he would be given another name at Confirmation and he was eventually saddled, legally, with the monogram D.E.E.W. — Donald Edwin Edmund Westlake. (His sister escaped that fate by not being given a middle name at birth and wound up, after Confirmation, with V.O.W.)

      As an adult, Don chose to drop the “Edmund” thoroughly. I had no idea until long into my adulthood. I would guess that his own experience played a significant role in crafting his view of what’s really in a name.

      Thanks again for the great comment and for the visit.

      Best,
      Pw

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