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Donald Westlake, RIP

2009 is not exactly getting off to a good start with the news of Donald Westlake’s death.

He was a consummate professional. The guy knew how to write mysteries; his range went from the comic caper Dortmunder books to the hardboiled Parker novels. He was primarily a novelist, but he did a few screenplays too. The Grifters was probably too quiet a flick to get noticed a ton, but it’s one of my probably top twenty movies and the last scene still disturbs me like very few other cinematic moments.

Just a smart writer. The funny in his comic mysteries came from an understanding of darkness, I think. One of his later novels, The Ax, is about a laid off paper company exec and the lengths he goes to in order to get a job. It’s bleak and understated and oddly believable, particularly right now.

I’m really bummed out about this.

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