Donald Westlake

Donald Westlake not only wrote great books that entertained millions of people, he wrote books that inspired people to become authors. All you have to do is look at all the heart-felt tributes from authors in the aftermath of Westlake's death yesterday to discover that

My brother Tod and I met Westlake a few years ago at the after-party for the Los Angeles Times Book Awards. We gathered up our courage and nervously approached him. We only meant to say hello, to tell him how much we loved his work, and then hurry along so as not to take up his time. But he engaged us in a conversation about writing, publishing and the movie business that lasted well over an hour (at one point, author Denise Hamilton joined us, too). He regaled us with funny, shocking, and revealing anecdotes from his long career in publishing and film. It was amazing. Many times during the conversation I met Tod's eye and I knew we were sharing the same thought:  I can't believe we are having this conversation with Donald Westlake!  (I found out later that Denise was thinking the same thing). Now it's impossible for us to attend the Los Angeles Times Book Festival without remembering that wonderful night…and that great writer, who also happened to be a hell of a nice guy. 

I am going to miss him.

: My brother Tod shares his memories of an excellent panel he moderated with Westlake (I'd forgotten about that) and our conversation with him at the party…though he seems to think the chat we had lasted for three hours. The truth is, it doesn't matter how long the conversation was…because for Tod and I, it won't end, the memory and its influence will stay with us for years. And that's how I will measure it.

[…]the really cool thing was that it wasn't just that
Westlake was pontificating, he was asking us stuff, too, we were
actually talking to Donald Westlake and he seemed perfectly
content, never mind that Lee and I were very nearly slobbering fools in
his presence. He was sweet, effusive and told us great stories for an
entire evening and then Lee and I sat in the car on the way home and
repeated all of the stories back to each other, as if we hadn't both
experienced them together.

5 thoughts on “Donald Westlake”

  1. I had no idea what an “anti-hero” was until I read my first “Parker”. I remember thinking “This guy would eat Mack Bolan (the preferred reading in junior high) for lunch!” I was hooked form the start.
    Then I discovered Dortmunder, Kelp, Murch, and laughed until I couldn’t breathe.
    Then I found out they were written by the same man. Which, at that age, was confusing as hell. How could the same guy write such lean, muscled in-your-face crime novels, then write a book with characters that made the Three Stooges look smooth and suave.
    I finally figured out what the word “TALENT” really means. Lee, it would hard to describe the envy over your meeting him and actually having a discussion. It would be impossible, in fact.
    Mr. Westlake, you will be sorely missed….

  2. I’m one of those who was inspired to write by him.
    The first book of his I ever read was “The Spy in the Ointment” hooking me for life. “God Save the Mark” came next, then I discovered Parker and Dortmunder and on and on and on.
    Tonight, a private wake where I’ll hoist a brew and start re-reading my private library of his titles. They fill a whole bookcase and are my much loved friends.
    I cannot tell you how much I owe Mr. Westlake both as a reader and a writer. We never met, but I count him as one of my true mentors in this craft.
    This scribbler must mourn.

  3. It is incredibly sad to think that he’s gone. I particularly loved the Dortmunder books, but anything Donald Westlake wrote was a joy to read. I agree with previous commentor William Simon that it is astonishing that one man could write with so many voices.
    I was very excited to have the pleasure of meeting Donald Westlake at a book signing several years ago at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood. Like a true fan, of course I got some books autographed, but I was also able to chat with him briefly. He was gracious and charming. Best of all, I have a photograph of the two of us! What a treasure. I’m really going to miss him.

  4. I really enjoyed the Diagonsis Murder books very much, sad to see there will be no more. I read the books before Mr Monk in Outer Space & enjoyed them.I was disapointed in Mr Monk in Outer Space. It was a bit too corny. I hope Mr Monk Goes to Germany is better. I will still continue to read your Mr Monk books

  5. He’s my favorite writer, yet I’ve never met anyone who’s read his books. I need to get out more.
    I have a bookcase of just his work, and will miss him a bunch.
    So sad to see him go, good to see so many folks thought he was super.


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