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Donald Westlake, Pulitzer Winner?

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The Weekly Standard site runs this absurdly short but intriguing http://weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/774nmhid.asp' target="_blank">


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I'm reviving this thread after returning from the library, where, on a whim and absent any burning alternative choices, I grabbed three Westlake books on CD: The Road to Ruin, Somebody Owes Me Money and Watch Your Back!

Kristol recommends anything in the Dortmunder series, and both The Road to Ruin and Watch Your Back! are Dormunder stories. Ruin is the earlier of the two, but maybe I should track down the very first Dortmunder -- or can I just dive right in?

I got no response to my first post in this thread, but maybe some Westlake fans have since come aboard? I'd love to hear from you.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Well, I read one of Westlake's books (it was under one of his many pseudonyms, and I can't remember which) that was part of the Hard Case Crime series. It was really good, in an ultra-pulpy, no-one-wins sort of way. I wish I could remember the name of it. I did really enjoy it though.

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Thanks, Jason. I still haven't started into any of the Westlake audiobooks, which got left downstairs for several days before I remember to move them to my car. I think I'll start with the earliest of the three books, and see how I like it.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Huh. I never posted my thoughts here about the Dortmunder audiobooks? Guess I did that in the "What We're Reading" thread. For those who didn't follow that discussion, the few Dortmunder titles I sampled (in audio form) did very little to convince me of their greatness, or their author's greatness (sorry, Kristol). But as I just mentioned in the "Pulpy Goodness" thread, I'm considering exploring Westlake's stories written under the pseudonym Richard Stark. According to Terry Teachout, those books are being reissued, and Teachout is working on introductions to two of the novels. He's posted the final two paragraphs of the introduction here.

EDIT: Looks like I have two options, if I want to go with the audiobook format: Ask the Parrot and Lemons Never Lie. I'm about a week from finishing Bolano's The Savage Detectives. I'll try some Stark after that.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I have only read two books from the Dortmunder series, the first one (The Hot Rock) and What's So Funny?

They don't exactly work for me, but friends I admire speak of the entire series with hushed tones, so I don't want to insult them either. You definitely do not need to start at the beginning. Part of their appeal seams to be the similarity of the books (in a "here we go again" way).

A friend of mine (who has since died himself) posted this appreciation of Westlake on another message list that might be worth your time:

http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/archives/200901/0036.html

For what it's worth, I have read The Ax and think it is even more relevant today than when it was written.

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The one I read was Lemons Never Lie, and it really was pretty good.

Think I'll start with that one, then.

I have only read two books from the Dortmunder series, the first one (The Hot Rock) and What's So Funny?

They don't exactly work for me, but friends I admire speak of the entire series with hushed tones, so I don't want to insult them either. You definitely do not need to start at the beginning. Part of their appeal seams to be the similarity of the books (in a "here we go again" way).

A friend of mine (who has since died himself) posted this appreciation of Westlake on another message list that might be worth your time:

http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/archives/200901/0036.html

For what it's worth, I have read The Ax and think it is even more relevant today than when it was written.

That was very nice, J. Henry. I didn't realize there was a third name under which Westlake wrote. I feel like a new world is about to open to me. I love that feeling! Although I thought the same thing on the eve of reading those Dortmunder novels, which left me pretty cold. Here's hoping for better things with these new books.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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That was very nice, J. Henry. I didn't realize there was a third name under which Westlake wrote. I feel like a new world is about to open to me. I love that feeling! Although I thought the same thing on the eve of reading those Dortmunder novels, which left me pretty cold. Here's hoping for better things with these new books.

Hopefully it works, Christian! I do realize that sometimes you just don't like an author, no matter what. As well-regarded and influential as Jim Thompson is, his stuff really doesn't do anything for me.

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Jason, I had the same reaction to Jim Thompson until I read Pop. 1280. He definitely has some clunkers in his collection, but Pop. 1280 helped me appreciate what he does in a whole new light.

Plus, he laid the groundwork for so many contemporary favorites like Dave Zeltserman, Jason Starr, Domenic Stansberry's The Confession and a dozen or so other first-person unreliable narrator noirs.

Sorry to get this off track from Westlake.

I have read the Hard Case Crime reprint of Lemons Never Lie and think it is worthwhile. I think the problem I have with regards to Westlake is that I am like a kid today who appreciates but isn't moved by the Beatles. The work of those who followed in his footsteps resonates greater for me. Undoubtedly this is my loss. The books are quick enough reads that I do plan to read at least one Dortmunder and one Parker book a year until I polish them all off.

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Westlake's God Save the Mark is also still available for free on the Kindle. I love my Kindle.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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This month, the University of Chicago Press is giving away for free Richard Stark's (i.e. Westlake's) Parker novel, The Score, in various e-book formats including Kindle and Nook. Links available from Levi Stahl.

Thanks for that link, this was a fun little read.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Michael Dirda reviews The Getaway Car, a collection of Westlake's nonfiction writings, and mentions something that hadn't really occurred to me previously:

 

In a later essay, he notes that his books usually steer clear of graphic sex and violence just because they tend to distract the reader from the story itself.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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The Weekly Standard site runs this absurdly short but intriguing �article� today:

Editor's note: The Los Angeles Times recently asked a group of notables for their alternate nominations for this year's Nobel Prizes. The full results were published in the October 1, 2006 edition. Below is William Kristol's nominee.

________________________________________

The Nobel Prize for literature should go to the American comic-mystery writer Donald Westlake. Enough with honoring self-consciously solemn, angst-ridden and pseudo-deep chroniclers of the human condition. Westlake is smart, clever and witty--a prolific craftsman--and quite deep. But do the Nobel judges have a sense of humor? I doubt it.

-William Kristol

--Kristol, a neocon, is a divisive political figure, but perhaps he�s on to something here. I wouldn�t know, having never read anything by Westlake.

Who�s a fan? Any recommended titles for those coming to Westlake�s work only now?

 

Michael Dirda reviews The Getaway Car, a collection of Westlake's nonfiction writings, and mentions something that hadn't really occurred to me previously:

 

In a later essay, he notes that his books usually steer clear of graphic sex and violence just because they tend to distract the reader from the story itself.

 

Now Kristol has a review of The Getaway Car in The Wall Street Journal, but you have to be a subscriber to read it.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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