Friday, February 06, 2009

Donald Westlake's multiple personalities

I'd posted here and here on Donald Westlake's tendency in his later work to bring aspects of one part of his large and varied oeuvre to bear on another. Thus a Parker caper might have comic Dortmunder touches or a Dormunder story might contain echoes of economic havoc, a la The Ax.

So I was especially pleased this week to find the following comment from Westlake himself:

"There are three reasons to write under a pen name, and at one time or another all three of those reasons have applied to me. As a result, I have been a longtime multiple personality, though lately showing signs of a more fully integrated character."
Perhaps I wasn't imagining those crossover tendencies.
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I found my way to the Westlake comment via the redesigned Violent World of Parker Web site. That's long been one of the richest and most informative sites out there, and now it includes a blog. Take a look.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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14 Comments:

Blogger Matthew E said...

And of course the two sides were always somewhat integrated anyway; Stark's Grofield character began life as Westlake's Greenwood.

February 06, 2009  
Blogger petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Hello Peter! Fascinating, however, I visted the site on which Westlake commented because what I was interested in, in addition to your point, the "three reasons to write under a pen name..." But came up empty-handed. Was wondering if you can recall what they were? Thank you, Peter!

February 06, 2009  
Blogger Fred Blosser said...

Unless there's a Greenwood appearance before THE HOT ROCK that slips my mind, I think Grofield came first, as a supporting character in THE SCORE (1965). The first Richard Stark novel with Grofield as the lead, THE DAMSEL (1968), also predated THE HOT ROCK. THE HOT ROCK and the Parker novel THE BLACK ICE SCORE have similar premises.

February 06, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And, most famously, Dortmunder grew out of Parker.

February 06, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

PM, the comment should come up when you click the link in the post. It's in the first paragraph of the item headed "Nobody Can Write This Shit Forever"*

February 06, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, The Score was inded Grofield's first appearance. That's one of the reasons it's probably my favorite Parker novel.

February 06, 2009  
Anonymous BV Lawson said...

If Westlake's pseudonyms were a "longtime multiple personality," then I suppose that makes someone like Georges Simenon with his two dozen pen names a psychoanalyst's dream. I'm wondering if anyone could possibly make a fully integrated character out of those disparate branches? Maybe Westlake could have pulled it off...

February 06, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Some of those old-time pulp guys probably could have given Simenon a run for his money in the pen name department.

Did Simenon reserve different pen names for different series, or did he use different names to avoid overexposure?

February 06, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

I just ran across a tribute to Westlake from a very successful author in her own right, Jo Walton.

February 08, 2009  
Anonymous BV Lawson said...

The only tidbit about Simenon's pen name I've found was that many of those pen names came before he finished a novel he considered worthy of bearing his name, which I believe was the first Maigret book (someone out there can correct this, if I'm wrong). I'd forgotten about mystery writer John Creasey, too, who was even more prolific, with 600 novels under 28 different pseudonyms. I have no idea how he kept them all straight.

February 08, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister. Sarah Weinman started a running list of tributes to Westlake. I'm not sure she's kept it up, but it got pretty long, and it included pieces from a number of authors.

February 09, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

This Maigret site, which has long been one of my favorite crime fiction sites, might be a good place to look for minutae about Maigret and Simenon. I'd read references to Creasey. I think one of theem said that even Edgar Wallace was nothing next to him int he prouctivity department.

February 09, 2009  
Blogger marco said...

Jo Walton whose Small Change trilogy I have profusely recommended.
(Speaking of Alternate Histories- by the way,final judgement on Roma Eterna?)

Another one of my favourite fantasist writers (who has already won an Edgar for his superb depression-era suspense novel The Girl in the Glass) speaks about The Man Who Watched Trains Go By here

February 10, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Since Roma Eterna was orginally a series of longish stories, I can render a judgment having read just the first. The underground sequences were imaginative and suggestive, but the story as a whole did not do much for me. I guess I was expecting more of Rome as it could have been and less pure fantasy and imagination.

I quite liked the characters, but I found the resolution too schmatically like Falstaff and young Henry.

Marco, one of my colleagues at work knows Jeffrey Ford and has talked him up.

February 10, 2009  

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