Rest In Peace, Donald Westlake (AKA Richard Stark)

In an entirely separate online identity, I run a (sloppy, poorly written, badly in need of a complete overhaul that I hope to do soon) site devoted to the Parker novels by Richard Stark.  If you aren’t familiar with Parker or Richard Stark, your best frame of reference might be Mel Gibson’s Payback, based on The Hunter, the first book in the series, although it was severely bastardized for the screen.

Richard Stark was actually Donald E. Westlake, author of over one hundred books.  He is perhaps best known for his comic Dortmunder series.  He died on New Years Eve.

Here was the obituary I wrote for my Parker site:

I have just received word that Donald Westlake died on December 31st, 2008, of a heart attack. He was 75.

This is a bit overwhelming. When someone has been around for your entire life, it is natural (for me anyway) to just assume they will always be there. This was a punch in the gut.

I never spoke to Donald Westlake, but we did exchange a letter and a couple of e-mails. I seem to have lost the letter he sent to me, something that has bothered me since I realized it was gone. Fortunately, e-mail isn’t bound by the physical, so I still have those. From every indication in the handful of exchanges we had, he was an absolute gentleman. (He discovered that there was a second film version of Jimmy the Kid through this site!)

There will be many obituaries written in the coming weeks. I will try to link the best of them. Here is the New York Time’s piece.

With over one hundred books published, it is stating the obvious to say that Donald Westlake loved writing. His entire life was a gift to those of us who love reading.

Farewell, Grandmaster.

I don’t know what else to write, other than that you should find a Donald Westlake book and read it.  There are plenty to choose from.  The Ax would be a good one.  The Hunter would be another.


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