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 booksincluding 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 The book opens with revealing (and funny) fragments from an unpublished autobiography, then goes on to offer an extended history of private eye fiction, a conversation among Westlakes numerous pen names, letters to friends and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.
“Westlake was a treasure and a delight to read—the man was incapable of writing a paragraph without being witty and memorable and wise—and Westlake on Westlake is enjoyable in the extreme.”
"Delightful and revealing. . . . A must-have for Westlake fans."
“Stahl has done a superb job of . . . separating the best of the wheat from the rest of the wheat—Don didnt do chaff—and organizing and notating the result.”
“I never met anyone who spoke about writing with greater wit or wisdom than Don Westlake. Reading these essays makes me feel as if, once again, he is talking to me, making me laugh as I learn.”
“Westlake kept a list of possible book titles, the last of which was Read Me. It would have been just the right one for this bright, witty book.”
“I discovered Donald Westlake as an angsty teenager, and his comic thrillers made my adolescence less angsty and more enjoyable. Thanks to this collection of his nonfiction, I can discover him all over again. And he is still making my life more enjoyable.”
“A serious, hilarious, penetrating look at the process of writing and the soul of the person creating it. Westlakes analysis of genre fiction, especially crime fiction, is unmatched. Levi Stahl should win the Edgar for his magnificent work. A masterpiece.”
“An absolute must-read for Westlakes legion of fans, this wonderful collection showcases the late mystery writers nonfiction skills. . . . Westlakes writing here is as compelling, as seemingly effortlessly entertaining, as it is in his fiction. A great collection and a reminder of just how talented an author Westlake was.”
“Granted full access to Westlakes archives, Stahl has done a superb job of panning gold from Westlakes river of personal material. The Getaway Car inspires us to sit down with a bottle of Amsterdam Liquor Store Bourbon—“Our Own Brand”—to toast a genius and to count our blessings that we have one more chance to savor Westlakes words.In normal gold-panning, the trick is ferreting out enough tiny nuggets to make it worthwhile. But here, judiciousness is called for, knowing which nuggets to feature from the embarrassment of riches. Westlakes friend and fellow crime novelist Lawrence Block has written a loving foreword, praising Stahl for ‘separating the best of the wheat from the rest of the wheat—Don didnt do chaff. . . . The Getaway Car inspires us to sit down with a bottle of Amsterdam Liquor Store Bourbon—‘Our Own Brand—to toast a genius and to count our blessings that we have one more chance to savor Westlakes words.”
“While nothing could be as precious as an undiscovered Westlake novel, this anthology comes very close-because it finally gives us context, background details, a basis on which to really start to understand the man behind all those felonious plans, comic capers, and sometimes searing insights into human nature, and our perpetually confused understanding of ourselves.”
“Many fans of crime fiction and capers consider Westlake among the best writers in the field. He published more than 100 books and received a Grand Master citation from the Mystery Writers of America. Those who love his work and such memorable characters as Parker, John Dortmunder and Sam Holt can now rejoice; collected here are essays, letters (one to Stephen King), interviews, an autobiographical fragment (in which he explains why being born in Brooklyn saved his infant life) and a recipe for John Dortmunders companion Mays tuna casserole. Some pieces have never been published before.”
“The Getaway Car may seem an odd title for a nonfiction miscellany, but it derives from a remark by Abby Adams Westlake. Her husband, she said, ‘no matter where he was headed, always drove like he was behind the wheel of the getaway car. That suggests something of the rush and exhilaration with which most readers will turn these pages.”
“Westlake was a storyteller of amazing inventiveness and range, of comic capers and noir thrillers, of manic romps and melancholy tales, of wacky adventures and clever conceits. His novels are set in the America he lived in. If you were to read widely in the Westlake oeuvre, youd get a better education in the many complexities of American life than you would if you were to spend years studying for a Ph.D. in sociology or American studies. . . . But, more important, if you were to read widely in Westlake, youd be endlessly entertained. Youll be similarly entertained by the The Getaway Car,—its contents run from substantial essays and admiring portraits of predecessors like Rex Stout and James Thurber to amusing interviews and reflections on Westlakes own work.”
“Westlake is rightly celebrated for the quality of his writing; the sheer tonnage of plot, character, and dialogue he produced was impressive, yet it never outweighed his talent. In The Getaway Car, editor Levi Stahl has assembled a diverse set of letters, interviews, and other documents that reveal what Westlake himself thought of his work—the business of writing, the process, and the resulting product of his labor.”
“The late Donald Westlake was a virtuoso composer of caper novels, both comic and deadly serious. The Getaway Car proves he was also a gifted nonfiction writer. Who knew? This collection of essays, autobiographical notes, interview transcripts and whatnot is a wondrous look into Westlakes bemused head. One highlight is a dissection of what makes pulp fiction tick (Westlake himself spent years in the pulp trenches).”
“Is a posthumous collection of miscellaneous pieces (even one as smartly edited as this one) a good place to first encounter a writer known for his fiction? Normally I would say no, but in Westlakes case, there really is no wrong way to approach his work. It is after all his sensibility—funny, fatalistic, humane but never sappy and always a little off kilter—that gives his writing its flavor, and you can find that sensibility in these pages as surely as you can in the novels. Because ultimately Westlake was not this kind of writer, or that kind, not a crime writer, or a satirist, or a comedian. He was just a writer, and as good as they come.”
“The great Donald E. Westlake, author of some of the best puzzles of the 20th century, turns out to have been a terrific essayist and correspondent, too. Reading this collection of nonfiction is like becoming friends with a mystery novelist.”
“This book doesn’t disappoint. . . . Westlake was a hugely entertaining and witty writer. Whether he is writing a letter to his editor or about the history of his genre, he remains true to his definition of what makes a great writer: ‘passion, plus craft.’”
“This is a book for everyone, anyone who likes mystery novels or good writing or wit and passion and intelligence, regardless of their source.”
“Almost as much as he enjoyed writing crime novels, Westlake liked to write comments on his own work and on that of his contemporaries and predecessors in the genre. His list of written product includes countless essays, book introductions and prefaces, lists, letters and one memorial (to John D. MacDonald). It’s from this treasure trove of material that an eager beaver academic named Levi Stahl at the University of Chicago has put together the valuable collection he titles The Getaway Car.”
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."
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.
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