Donald E. Westlake died on New Year’s Eve 2008, and my reading life hasn’t been the same.
Among my Christmas gifts this year were four Westlake novels, all written under pseudonyms. The Handle, by Richard Stark and the first three Sam Holt novels. I devoured them all like a man who hasn’t eaten a good meal in a long time.
I spoke to Donald Westlake exactly once, an hour-long telephone interview for a newspaper story and associated column. He was a pleasure. I was already a fan of the writer, but I became a fan of the man behind the typewriter, too. Westlake churned out books like the Duggars churn out children — but even faster. And he often gets compared to a pulp writer because of the speed at which he worked. But here’s the thing: Westlake’s writing was quality. I’ve never read a bad Westlake. Or Parker. Or Holt. Or whomever.
His last book, Get Real, is still on shelves. I should buy it. I know I should. But if I buy it, I’ll read it. And then there won’t be any more new Donald Westlake novels. Not ever.
And that’s a loss I’m still coping with.