Donald E. Westlake, 1933-2008


I was saddened yesterday to hear of the death of mystery writer Donald E. Westlake. Under his own name as well as the pseudonym “Richard Stark,” Westlake wrote some of my favorite comic caper and tough-guy heist novels, and many of those books had been adapted into motion pictures. The Westlake comedies starred a professional thief named Dortmunder, who was played on screen (sometimes with a name change) by actors as diverse as Robert Redford (The Hot Rock, above left), George C. Scott, and Martin Lawrence. The most famous film version of a Richard Stark novel is probably Point Blank, with Lee Marvin, but Robert Duvall did a great job as the lead in The Outfit (above right, with Joe Don Baker).*

Westlake is also the author of Somebody Owes Me Money, which Hard Case Crime publisher Charles Ardai (who brought the novel back into print last summer) and I agree is perhaps the greatest title a novel has ever had.

And be sure to read this thoughtful appreciation from Omnivoracious, from which the picture below is taken.

*Correction: I got the casting reversed when I wrote this post; it’s been a while since I’ve seen The Outfit. Probably too long.

2 January 2009 | obituaries |