Donald E. Westlake, 1933-2008

donald-westlake-films.jpg

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 |

Remembering Andy Jones

Andy Jones3.JPGI was saddened to hear this afternoon about the death of entertainment journalist Andy Jones, who suffered a fatal heart attack at a press screening of the new Angelina Jolie film A Mighty Heart. I hadn’t been in touch with Andy in far too long a time, but I wouldn’t be doing the things I do if it weren’t for him—at least nowhere near the way I’m doing them. Back in ‘96, Andy was kind enough to hire me as a freelancer for Spiv, a pop culture site that the folks at Turner were putting together when every media conglomerate decided they needed to have a webzine. Later, when they killed off most of Spiv and kept only the film section, Rough Cut, he made sure that I was tapped to do indie film reviews and cover film festivals in San Francisco. I even got to do an occasional interview with film historians like David Thomson—the site is long gone, but you might be able to find some of that stuff in the Internet Archive if you look hard enough. Anyway, Andy’s support enabled me to hone my chops as a reviewer and interviewer, and we used to talk on the phone a lot, and the one time I met him, just as I was leaving the West Coast for New York, he was so much fun that I’m sorry we never got around to doing it again.

22 June 2007 | obituaries |

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