Thursday, April 07, 2011

More Westlake

Last week I started rereading a Donald Westlake novel looking for the answer to a contest question. I found the answer and entered the contest. Then I finished that book (The Handle), and I've read four more by Westlake since, each at least for the second time. Here are some of the highlights:
  • The guards in the bank that gets stolen in Bank Shot (that right: stolen, not robbed) work for the Continental Detective Agency, a tribute to the crime writer Westlake acknowledged as his first and virtually only early influence. One of the guards in particular is content to be a guard with the company. He has no aspirations to be a Continental Op.
  • A belligerent driver who threatens to make trouble for Dortmunder and Kelp in the same book backs off when our heroes persuade him that police would be very interested in the piles of soft-core porn books in the back of his car. The books are titles Westlake wrote himself under his Alan/Allan Marshall aliases.
  • Another Westlake book is on the way, even though Westlake died in 2008. It's a "weird little SF mystery" called The Risk Profession that first appeared in a science-fiction magazine in the early '60s, and it stars "an investigator for an interplanetary insurance company, ferreting out the truth behind suspicious ... insurance claims."
© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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44 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

Did you win?

Peter, I'm pretty sure it was on this blog that I learned how many aliases Westlake traveled under. It adds another layer to find him referring to another alias within his novel. Intriguing.

April 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I checked how many aliases Fantastic Fiction listed for Westlake. I think eight or ten.

As for layers of meaning, Westlake does this all the time, and I discover more and more instances as I reread the books. In one of the Dortmunder novels, I think Bank Shot, for example, Dortmunder briefly uses the Chuck Willis. That's Parker's main alias in the Richard Stark books.

I need to emphasize for people who haven't read Westlake that knowledge of these references is in no way necessary to enjoyment of the books. All they mean is that when you're reading the books for the first time, you can look forward to reading them a second time and having a couple of a-ha! moments per book.

April 07, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I still haven't read him. I know--inexcusable. And though when I was a kid my family saw The Hot Rock and loved it, I understand that I am wrong to think Robert Redford is an acceptable Dortmunder.

My bad, as they, but not usually I say.

April 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's all good, as they, but never I, say. You could do worse to start your Westlake reading at the beginning of the Parker and Dortmunder series.

Robert Reford is nobody's idea of Dortmunder, but he's a good enought actor that he makes the character work. And George Segal is a terrific Kelp. Redford made a far better Dortmunder than (I am not making this up) Martin Lawrence, for instance.

April 07, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

What are the beginning ones if you know some off the top of your head? (I can always look them up,of course.)

April 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The Hot Rock and Bank Shot are the first two Dortmunders. The Hunter (aka Point Blank), The Man With the Getaway Face and The Outfit are the first three Parkers. I also like The Score and The Handle, fifth and eighth in the series.

April 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, and the contest is not over, so I don't know if my correct entry will be drawn.

April 07, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Thanks. As I've only recently read my first Ken Burke and my first James Lee Burke, Westlake may well be in the cards.

What does the winner win?

April 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I presume you mean Ken Bruen. I've read four of Bruen's Jack Taylor novels, though not The Guards.

I've read about forty-five of Westlake's books, which means I've read something less than half his output.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Shoot, I his "Publish" too soon. The winner wins a copy of Wallace Stroby's latest novel. The contest came about when Stroby mentioned that Parker/Hammett connection. The question evolved into a contest, with Stroby offering the prize.

I have heard good things about Stroby, and I talked with him briefly at Noircon. He's a pleasant chap and a former member of my profession; we know some of the same people. And anyone who likes Richard Stark and Dashiell Hammett probably writes pretty good books.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Shoot, yes, your assumption was right. Although I did just read the first Declan Burke too. Though this was not the first book of his I've read.

V word is good:dialec

April 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One-a man's dialec' is anudder man's language.

I read Eightball Boogie after I'd read Crime Always Pays. I quite liked it, and it probably makes a good pair for reading with Bruen.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I did too. I was impressed by his constant inventiveness in language.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I liked the various ways the book is indebted to Chandler without being a tired rip-off,

I suggested one brief violent scene in the book was Burke's way up restoring some of the dark edge that time may have drained from Chandler. Declan shrugged at the suggestion.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Yep, it's hard to pay homage to Chandler well. I think he does. There was one or actually two related scenes that I found pretty hard to take, but they were, as you say, brief. And no one came out of them looking good.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I hope these teasing allusions will get people reading the book.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

99 cents, people.

That is, if you have a Kindle. Otherwise you can still get a copy from the author for a modest shipping fee. Whihc is what I did.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Here's more information, complete with handy links.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger Glenna said...

I just finished Eightball Boogie last night and it's my favorite of Declan's books I've read. Interestingly enough, Chandler's The Big Sleep is next on the list as soon as I finish up the last of Denise Mina's Paddy Meehan trilogy. I keep hearing about "shout outs" to Chandler, I figure it's time to check him out for myself.

V word- revin. I'm revin up to read... Yeah corny I know, but I work at an elementary school so what do you expect?

April 08, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Corny is the V word's middle name, Glenna. I hope to see your review of it up soon.


v word=dista. As in "distant sista". See what I mean?

April 08, 2011  
Blogger OlmanFeelyus said...

Interesting news that The Risk Profession is coming out. Do you know who is publishing it?

An audio version is in the public domain as well:

http://violentworldofparker.com/?p=2809

April 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Olman, the Risk Profession is confusing. The Fantastic Fiction Web site gives publication dates of 2011 and 2009. Amazon list a Kindle version published by Wonder Publishing Group.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Glenna, I honored Chandler’s memory on his birthday a few years ago with a list of crime writers who had acknowledged his importance to their work. A complete accounting of Chandler shout-outs and tributes would be so vast as to be impossible, I suspect.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

v word=dista. As in "distant sista". See what I mean?

What did that bad dude do to his woman?

He dista.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Again, Glenna--see what I mean?

April 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Think of us as the kids at the back of the room who just won't stop talking.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger Glenna said...

Ah yes, those kids, I know them very well. Just please promise you won't take your jello with whip cream, mash it with your spork, dump it in your hand, and then try to drink it with a ridiculously thin straw. Did I mention these are the 4th graders I'm talking about?

April 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sounds like fun, though I think that even in fourth grade I'd have refused to recognize spork as a word.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Well, I once tried to make a drink where you mixed milk and taco sauce using two straws, and I wasn't even that young.

In case you're wondering, it was sickening. Literally.)

April 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I once filled a sugar container with salt at summer camp. Someone told me later the swimming instructor stirred it into his coffee and threw up.

April 08, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

As a disinterested scientist, like the guy who let himself be bit by a mosquito carrying yellow fever, I experimented only on myself.

Actually, I had to look up the details of that, as it was something I remembered from a school textbook eons ago. It turns out that he did ask for volunteers but he did actually die himself before he proved his thesis.

I hadn't remembered that the doctor was Walter Reed, whom the famous Vet's hospital was named after. Here's the here.

April 09, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Here's the here? I meant 'link'.

April 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Here's the here sounds like an effort to capitalize on the success of What is the What.

I can't claim to have been experimenting on anything. On the other hand, I didn't want to make Udo up-chuck, either.

April 09, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Yeah--unfortunately, I've never figured out how to capitalize on much of anything.

April 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, I quite like "Here's the here."

April 09, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Well, I admit it might be a good blog title. But only for a much more trendy blogger than I am.

April 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It will be a while before it becomes trendy not to be trendy, I suppose.

April 09, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

With the salt/sugar story, you just reminded me that every single April Fool's Day, my sibling and I would put salt into the sugar bowl.

Our father would make his morning coffee, put in the "sugar," and spit it out, and we'd, of course, yell "April Fool."

And then we'd do it again next year, he not remembering this from the year before.

April 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

To this day I don't know if the swimming intructor really barfed. That may just have been my good friends having their little joke with me.

April 09, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Spitting is more probably. My father would just immediately spit out the coffee. Than laugh.

April 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

If I ever meet that swim instructor again, I'll ask if he spat out the coffee and laughed.

April 09, 2011  
Blogger Glenna said...

I was actually told by a Starbucks barista that putting a bit Of salt in you coffee can help get rid of bitterness. Interesting idea, if you're gutsy enough.

April 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

By odd coincidence, one of the regulars in Westlake's Dortmunder novels, of which Bank Shot is one, takes a bit of salt in his beer, to the disgust of Rollo the bartender. This character is the gang's driver, so he doesn't drink much. A little salt, he says, revives the head on his beer.

I'm not about to test the theory, though I could ask a bartender.

April 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It adds another layer to find him referring to another alias within his novel. Intriguing.

Seana, the Westlake novel Jimmy the Kid has Dortmunder and his gang planning a heist based on a Parker novel by Richard Stark. (It's not a real novel, just an imaginary one concocted for the purpose.)

April 13, 2011  

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