RARA-AVIS: Re: Donald E. Westlake, Mystery Writer, Is Dead at 75 (NYT obituary

From: David L. Wilson (dwilson@sccn.net)
Date: 02 Jan 2009

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    Oh boy, this one hurts. Westlake and I had several friends in common and all of them spoke affectionately and respectfully of him, always. His personality was as large, it seems, as the shadow from his prose. Everyone else was in second place. I very much hoped to meet him and add him to my series of interviews with crime writers but we were never in the same place at the same time. A great writer who may be my all-time favorite, who convinced me again of the undying beauty of the novel and the mystery form. For many years there's been no one who I'd seek out in the bookstores like Westlake. A new Stark was an event for me. Just a great great loss. I have so few heros left.

    Death seems to have greeted him as a professional, swift and sudden, without emotion or hesitation. A Westlake moment. Despite his subjects, and the controlled mayhem of his characters. Westlake was a writer of elegance and compassion. I was pleased last week because I'd found a copy of his first novel. I was going to quote from another of his books but I've pulled it out often enough that it wasn't filed with its cousins, a book he did not claim but that I returned to, on occasion, because it filled me with a great sense of love and balance, a recognition that we are all in this same game together. It consoled me and made some of life's challenges easier to bear.

    This is the life of a writer. You will touch the lives of those you have never met. You will help them through their own private hells and they will weep, someday, when you are gone.

    I'll have to go and reread some of my favorite memories with the guy. He left us so much.

    David Laurence Wilson

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