The Magazine

Westlake Lives!

Two posthumous gifts from a master entertainer.

Dec 3, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 12 • By JON L. BREEN
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It is difficult to write about Donald E. Westlake without wanting to take a self-indulgent detour to read or reread his prodigious output. He wrote five grim, downbeat private eye novels as Tucker Coe, four comic amateur detective novels as Samuel Holt, and various one-shots under such names as Curt Clark, Timothy J. Culver, and Judson Jack Carmichael. And while it may seem heresy to say so, his great series about Parker and Dortmunder are not his finest work. Two late noncomic novels—The Ax (1997), in which corporate downsizing leads to murder, and The Hook (2000), about a bestselling novelist’s deadly struggle with writer’s block—are possible candidates for Westlake’s best. 

Memory is very nearly in their league. The Comedy Is Finished doesn’t rank quite that high, but read it anyway. Westlake would undoubtedly have been happy to see these two books in print.

Jon L. Breen is the author, most recently, of Probable Claus