Re: RARA-AVIS: Donald Westlake and the origin of Parker

From: Nathan Cain (
Date: 06 Jan 2009

  • Next message: Richard Moore: "RARA-AVIS: Re: Donald E. Westlake, Mystery Writer, Is Dead at 75 (NYT obituary"

    There is an interview with Westlake on the DVD of the director's cut of Payback where he talks about the same thing, and says he kind of came to resent Stark for a while since he was more successful than Westlake. The interview is short (only about 10 minutes), but it's well worth seeing, as is the director's cut of Payback, which is a much darker film than the version that made it into theaters.

    On Mon, Jan 5, 2009 at 11:39 PM, Richard Moore <> wrote:
    > Westlake has always been a favorite of mine and I've enjoyed his
    > light-hearted novels almost as much as his grittier fare. As I've
    > recounted here before in relation to other writers, Michele Slung
    > hosted a series of talks with mystery writers at the Smithsonian
    > Institute in 1981-82 and Westlake was one of those participating.
    > This was before mystery writers, other than a rare few, enjoyed much
    > public recognition and the prestige of the Smithsonian added to the honor.
    > Unlike most of the other participants who spoke informally, Westlake
    > composed a well-organized speech that declared the private eye novel
    > was dead. While it had its funny moments, Westlake was not joking
    > when he said the PI novel had been done to death and it was time to
    > move on. He put the needle to many of the leading PI writers
    > beginning with Ross Macdonald, the then leading practioner. He later
    > converted the talk into an article for the much lamented publication
    > The Armchair Detective and it caused a good bit of controversy at the
    > time.
    > Naturally, I can't find the issue when I looked for it tonight. But I
    > did find an excellent Westlake interview conducted by the late William
    > DeAndrea (with help from Richard Myers in the Fall 1988 issue of The
    > Armchair Detective. In it he gives the origins of Parker, which owes
    > its life as a series to the poor choice by an editor at Gold Medal and
    > an inspired editor at Pocket Books who loved Chester Himes' Harlem series.
    > Westlake: Of course, the first book wasn't going to be part of a
    > series. Nothing happened the way I anticipated it was going to happen
    > with that book. I was doing one a year in hardcover from Random
    > House, and I thought, okay, time to have another name, and I'd been
    > reading all these Gold Medal books--which is where Peter Rabe came
    > from--so I wrote this book to be a Gold medal paperback original
    > novel. Certainly not a series. In fact, Parker got caught at the
    > end. The editor at Gold Medal turned it down, and I was confused.
    > Then it was sent to Pocket Books. There was an editor at Pocket Books
    > named Bucklyn Moon. Buck Moon.
    > Meyers: Great name.
    > Westlake: Yeah. He was a very interesting guy. He was a white guy
    > whose three great interests were mystery--private eye--crime novels,
    > poetry, and black writing. He edited anthologies of black poets, for
    > instance; he was the American champion of Chester Himes--Gravedigger
    > Jones, Coffin Ed Johnson. These things all came together in him. At
    > that time, I was represented by Scott Meredith, God help me. Buck
    > called Scott, and then he called me, and said, "Is there any way for
    > you to let Parker get away at the end of the book, and give me three a
    > year?" I said, "I think so."
    > Skipping forward in the interview, Westlake continued.
    > Westlake: But , at the time, a $3000 advance was very good. So in
    > '61, being told that for my second name I would do three books a year,
    > which would be no problem, that would be $9,000 already. On the first
    > of January, I know I'm going to make at least $9,000 this year--that's
    > terrific. And I'd really had to distort the book to have the guy
    > caught in the end, anyway, so I just had him deal with those cops, you
    > know? Parker unchained.
    > DeAndrea: You once said to me, "You don't know what it's like to have
    > a pen name who's doing better than you are" Is that really true?
    > Westlake: Stark did better than Westlake for his last few years. The
    > last Stark was published in '73, and maybe even a little farther,
    > Stark did better than Westlake in terms of sales, income, and movie
    > sales, and certain in terms of fan letters. This is knowledge that I
    > resist but its true...
    > So tonight I raise my glass in salute to both Donald Westlake and an
    > editor named Bucklyn Moon.
    > Richard Moore
    > --- In, sonny <sforstater@...> wrote:
    >> as you know, the hunter (aka point blank and payback) was the first
    > parker book written/published.

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