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Donald Westlake, 1933-2008

11:01 AM, Jan 2, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Donald Westlake, one of the boss's favorite authors, passed away yesterday. Westlake wrote once for THE WEEKLY STANDARD, a piece that can be read here, and was the subject of a profile in this magazine by Steven Lenzner, which can be read here. Lenzner begins:

Plato, as everyone knows, once defined man as a "featherless biped." His student Aristotle insisted instead that man is by nature a political animal, a being whose capacity for speech compels him to live with others.

So who's right, ironic Plato or solid Aristotle? I can think of only one living writer who might reconcile the two-and that's Donald E. Westlake, the author of the best crime-caper stories ever written. Indeed, properly read, Westlake has already reconciled Plato and Aristotle in his stories, by showing us man as the animal who can laugh at himself, use speech to explode human pretensions, and thus reach toward civilization. Donald Westlake is not only our finest living comic mystery writer, but perhaps one of our finest living philosophers.

Read the whole thing.

Update: Also see this recent review of two of Westlake's last novels from the September 1, 2008, issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD, and this post from Terry Teachout as well.