January 2, 2009
Donald E. Westlake, Mystery Writer, Is Dead at 75
By JENNIFER 8. LEE
Donald E. Westlake, a prolific, award-winning mystery novelist who
pounded out more than 100 books and five screenplays on manual
typewriters during his half-century career, died Wednesday night. He
Mr. Westlake collapsed, apparently from a heart attack, as he headed
out to New Year's Eve dinner while on vacation in San Tancho,
Mexico, said his wife, Abigail Westlake.
Mr. Westlake, considered one of the most successful and versatile
mystery writers in the United States, has earned three Edgar Awards,
an Academy Award nomination for screenplay writing, and the elite
title of Grand Master from the Mystery Writers of America in 1993.
Since his first novel, "The Mercenaries," was published by Random
House in 1960, Mr. Westlake has written under his own name and
several pseudonyms, including Richard Stark, Tucker Coe, Samuel Holt
and Edwin West. Despite the diversity of names, one shared feature
was that almost all his books were set in New York City, where he
He used many names in part to combat skepticism over his rapid rate
of writing books, which at some points reached four a year.
"In the beginning, people didn't want to publish more than one book
a year by the same author," said Susan Richman, his publicist at
Grand Central Publishing, his current publisher. In the later half
of his career, Mr. Westlake had narrowed himself to his own name and
Richard Stark, author of a dark series about a one-name criminal
The full panoply of all his books was a spectacle to behold, his
friends said. "We were in his library, this beautiful library
surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of titles, and I realize that
every single book was written by Donald Westlake, English language
and foreign language editions," said Laurence Kirschbaum, his agent.
Mr. Westlake's cinematic style of storytelling, along with his
carefully crafted plots and crisp dialogue, translated well to the
screen. More than 15 of his books were made into movies, some
multiple times. In addition, he himself wrote a number of
screenplays, including "The Grifters," which was nominated for an
Academy Award in 1991.
Donald Edwin Westlake was born to Lillian and Albert Westlake on
July 12, 1933, in Brooklyn, but raised in Yonkers and Albany. He
attended a number of colleges in New York State, but did not
graduate from any of them. He married his current wife, Abigail, in
1979, and the couple made their home in Gallatin, N.Y. He was
previously married to Nedra Henderson and Sandra Kalb. He is
survived by his wife; his four sons by his previous marriage, Sean
Westlake, Steven Westlake, Paul Westlake, Tod Westlake; two step-
daughters, Adrienne Adams and Katherine Adams; a step-son, Patrick
Adams; his sister, Virginia; and four grandchildren.
He was writing all the way till he passed away. His next novel, "Get
Real," is scheduled to be released in April 2009.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 01 Jan 2009 EST