donald westlake

I once read a book of stories by a man named Fredric Brown. In one of them he quotes the tale of the peasant walking through the haunted wood, saying to himself, “I am a good man and have done no wrong. If devils can harm me, then there isn’t any justice,” and a voice behind him says, “There isn’t.”
—  361 by Donald Westlake, published by Hard Case Crime.

The Parker series of novels by Donald Westlake (writing as Richard Stark) are my personal favorites. I’m also a big fan of POINT BLANK despite the fact that it is far from a perfect adaptation of the Parker debut “The Hunter.” I guess naming the character “Walker” (long story) helps me separate it from Westlake’s books and enjoy it as it’s own thing, particularly as an avenging ghost story. And hey, who doesn’t love seeing Lee Effin’ Marvin kick some teeth in?

If you’ve never seen POINT BLANK, I highly recommend getting the DVD that features commentary by director John Boorman and Steven Soderbergh.

Out of the Past
NEAL POLLACK on a 23-volume RICHARD STARK reprint series

and JOHN SHANNON on the greatest Vietnam War novel ever written.

Smith Corona cc Haris Awang
Richard Stark
The Hunter
The Man with the Getaway Face (1963)
The Outfit (1963)
Deadly Edge (1971)
Slayground (1971)
Butcher’s Moon (1974)
Comeback (1997)
Firebreak (2001)

And 15 other titles. Reprints University of Chicago Press, 2008-2012.

Artistic Pulp Sleaziness

I got the email in early May. “Dear Mr. Pollack,” it went, way too formally, as though the editor were informing me that I’d been late in making my credit card payment. Then I read the pitch: “Would you be willing to review or write something on the occasion of U. of Chicago’s reprints of Richard Stark’s Parker novels?”

This “occasion” had slipped my purview, as had, I’ll admit, Richard Stark’s Parker novels themselves. I was only barely aware, if aware at all, of their existence and probably wouldn’t have been able to say for sure that Stark was a pseudonym of the legendary crime writer Donald Westlake. This isn’t something I’m proud to announce, particularly since I’ve spent many years trumpeting myself as a lover of all things “noir.” But hey, there are lots of writers in the world, and I’ve got a kid to feed and TV to watch. Still, this email offered me something I couldn’t refuse. Free books, in a genre I like. I would come to the Parker novels with fresh, innocent eyes, like a newborn fawn staring at the world for the first time, or at a pair of headlights.

A couple of weeks later, a big box arrived from Chicago. It contained 10 nifty, sleek paperbacks, with appropriately muted coloring and silhouettes of snubnosed guns on their covers. Some of them also featured backlit dames or guys with hats, and, depending on the book, a truck, a serrated knife, or a carnival midway. I’d entered noir country. That night, I flossed and put in my night guard and started some easy reading about a very tough character.

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August Happy Challenge, day 21 - What is your favorite book or series?

I love 

  • the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich
  • also the mystery novels by Jennifer Crusie/Bob Mayer (Agnes and the Hitman and Wild Ride)
  • and the Dortmunder novels by Donald Westlake (they are hilarious)
  • Also the Midsomer Murders by Caroline Graham, which were made into a mystery TV series that’s available on Netflix
  • Oh and the cooking mysteries by Diane Mott Davidson!