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Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellanyby Charles Portis
Synopses & Reviews
Over the course of a fifty-year career, Donald E. Westlake published nearly one hundred books, including not one but two long-running series, starring the hard-hitting Parker and the hapless John Dortmunder. In the six years since his death, Westlakes reputation has only grown, with fans continuing to marvel at his tightly constructed plots, no-nonsense prose, and keen, even unsettling, insights into human behavior.
With The Getaway Car, we get our first glimpse of another side of Westlake the writer: what he did when he wasnt busy making stuff up. And its fascinating. Setting previously published pieces, many little seen, alongside never-before-published material found in Westlakes working files, the book offers a clear picture of the man behind the books—including his thoughts on his own work and that of his peers, mentors, and influences. The book opens with revealing (and funny) fragments from an unpublished autobiography, then goes on to offer an extended history of private eye fiction, a conversation among Westlakes numerous pen names, letters to friends and colleagues, interviews, appreciations of fellow writers, and much, much more. Theres even a recipe for Sloth à la Dortmunder. Really.
Rounded out with a foreword by Westlakes longtime friend Lawrence Block, The Getaway Car is a fitting capstone to a storied career and a wonderful opportunity to revel anew in the voice and sensibility of a master craftsman.
"No other writer can so accurately be compared to greats as diverse as Twain, Garcia Marquez, Chaucer and McCarthy. Portis easily lives up to these laurels while remaining his own man, as displayed in the reportage, short fiction and drama assembled here by fellow Arkansan Jennings. Most famed as a novelist, particularly for True Grit and its two hit film adaptations, he also crafts cultural criticism as powerfully understated as contemporary Didion. Even covering subjects that could devolve into kitsch — Nashville's music scene, Elvis Presley's bedside vigil — he displays 'deep knowledge worn lightly.' A fascination with language that shines through the dialogue in his play Delray's New Moon, printed here for the first time, also produces such treasures in his nonfiction as an etymology of 'bayou.' His self-effacing Civil Rights journalism, meanwhile, effortless registers small, perfect details like young African-American marchers in 1963 Birmingham throwing U.S. flags into the street rather than cede them to arresting police. Portis rarely answers his own questions but does the reader one better, laboring over a far more elusive pleasure: the articulation of the unknown. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
This anthology gathers the very best of Donald Westlakes nonfiction, including reviews, essays, letters, and interviews, plus a recipe for tuna casserole. Levi Stahl, aficionado of the novels Westlake wrote as Richard Stark, Tucker Coe, and Westlake, was given access to the writers personal files and chose the most interesting bits, such as a memoir fragment on how Westlake taught himself to write. This is the only collection of nonfiction by the grand master of mystery, who wrote scores of crime novels from 1959 till he died in 2008. Lawrence Block has provided an amusing and revealing foreword.
For those who care about literature or simply love a good laugh (or both), Charles Portis has long been one of America's most admired novelists. His 1968 novel True Grit is fixed in the contemporary canon, and four more have been hailed as comic masterpieces. Now, for the first time, his other writings--journalism, travel stories, short fiction, memoir, and even a play--have been brought together in Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany, his first new book in more than twenty years. All the familiar Portis elements are here: picaresque adventures, deadpan humor, an expert eye for detail and keen ear for the spoken word, and encounters with oddball characters both real and imagined. The collection encompasses the breadth of his fifty-year writing career, from his gripping reportage of the civil rights movement for the New York Herald Tribune to a comic short story about the demise of journalism in the 21st century. New to even the most ardent fan is his three-act play, Delray's New Moon, performed onstage in 1996 and published here for the first time. Whether this is your first encounter with the world of Portis or a long-awaited return to it, you'll agree with critic Ron Rosenbaum--whose essay appears here alongside tributes by other writers--that Portis "will come to be regarded as the author of classics on the order of a twentieth-century Mark Twain, a writer who captures the soul of America."
About the Author
Jay Jennings lives in his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas, where he is a freelance writer. His work appears regularly in the New York Times Book Review, and his writing has been recognized by the Best American Sports Writing annual and has been included in the humor anthologies Mirth of a Nation and The Lowbrow Reader Reader. His book Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City was named a 2010 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. Charles Portis was born and raised in south Arkansas, graduating from Hamburg High School. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War, earned a journalism degree from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and became a newspaper reporter. He worked for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock, and the New York Herald Tribune, for which he became London bureau chief. He left that job to return to Arkansas--where he still lives--and write fiction. He is the author of five acclaimed novels: Norwood, True Grit, The Dog of the South, Masters of Atlantis, and Gringos. True Grit was made into two award-winning films, the first in 1969 starring John Wayne and the other in 2010 directed by the Coen brothers.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Lawrence Block
1 My Second Life: Fragments from an Autobiography
2 Donald E. Westlake, a.k.a. . . .
Hearing Voices in My Head: Tucker Coe, Timothy J. Culver, Richard Stark and Donald E. Westlake
Living with a Mystery Writer, by Abby Adams
Writers on Writing: A Pseudonym Returns From an Alter-Ego Trip, With New Tales to Tell
3 So Tell Me about This Job Were Gonna Pull: On Genre
The Hardboiled Dicks
Introduction to Murderous Schemes
Introduction to The Best American Mystery Stories, 2000
Dont Call Us, Well Call You
4 Ten Most Wanted: Ten Favorite Mystery Books
5 Returning to the Scene of the Crime: On His Own Work
Introduction to Levine
Tangled Webs for Sale: Best Offer
Introduction to Kahawa
Letter to Howard B. Gotlieb, Boston University Libraries
6 Lunch Break: Mays Famous Tuna Casserole
7 The Other Guys in the String: Peers, Favorites, and Influences
Lawrence Block: First Sighting
On Peter Rabe
Playing Politics with a Master of Dialogue: On George V. Higgins
On Rex Stout
Introduction to Jack Ritchies A New Leaf and Other Stories
Foreword to Thurber on Crime
Introduction to Charles Willefords The Way We Die Now
On Stephen Frears
John D. MacDonald: A Remembrance
8 Coffee Break: Letter to Ray Broekel
9 Anything You Say May Be Used against You: Interviews
An Inside Look at Donald Westlake, by Albert Nussbaum, 81332-132
The Worst Happens: From an Interview by Patrick McGilligan
10 Midnight Snack: Gustatory Notes from All Over
11 Side Jobs: Prison Breaks, Movie Mobsters, and Radio Comedy
Love Stuff, Cops-and-Robbers Style
Send In the Goons
12 Signed Confessions: Letters
To Judy ?
To Peter Gruber
To James Hale
To Stephen and Tabitha King
To Brian Garfield
To David Ramus
To Pam Vesey
To Gary Salt
To Henry Morrison
To Jon L. Breen
13 Jobs Never Pulled: Title Ideas
Comic Crime Titles
14 Death Row (Or, The Happily Ever Afterlife): Letter to Ralph L. Woods
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