Thursday, January 01, 2009

Donald E. Westlake died!

My favorite mystery writer died suddenly yesterday. Donald E. Westlake, creator of the humorous crime series featuring the very talented (but equally very unlucky) burglar "Dortmunder," apparently had a heart attack while on vacation in Mexico.

I love his books. I'm reading one of his more recent books now, Put a Lid On It. Though he wrote a lot of comic crime novels, he was just as good at writing serious ones. He wrote another series of books about a totally "hard-boiled" criminal, Parker--though Westlake used the non de plume "Richard Stark" for those. And that wasn't the only pseudonym he used.

I heard him speak a couple of times, and he autographed a few of my books after one talk. I remember him being asked how he felt when a successful book of his was made into a not-so-successful movie. He said he thought of them as he did his children--he raised them as well as he could to adulthood, and then wished them luck and sent them out to succeed or fail on their own.

He wrote more than a hundred books in all (using manual typewriters!), and I'm not sure I've read even half of them--so there will be plenty of Westlake in my future. And there is one more scheduled to be published this year. Still, it's sad he has died. He was only 75.

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