Donald E. Westlake

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I believe my subject is bewilderment. But I could be wrong.

Donald Edwin Westlake (July 12, 1933December 31, 2008) was an American novelist and screenplay author most famous for his "comic caper" novels.


Life is a slow-motion avalanche, and none of us are steering
  • If Chester had a failing, it was that he believed people were what they thought they were.
  • The cops are after me, I'm on my way to join an organization of lunatics and bombers, I'm wired for sound, my necktie turns into a smokescreen, my handkerchief will make you throw up, my Diner's Club card explodes, I'm the leader of a subversive terrorist organization composed entirely of undercover federal agents, newspapers all over the country are saying I killed my girl, and I'm on my way to meet a twenty-five-year-old Nazi built like Bronco Nagurski. If relaxed means limp, don't worry about it. I'm relaxed. I'm relaxed all over.
    • The Spy in the Ointment (1966)
  • Nobody gets everything in this life. You decide your priorities and you make your choices. I'd decided long ago that any cake I had would be eaten.
    • Two Much (1975), Ch. 21
  • In order to hold your faith intact be sure it's kept unsullied by fact.
    • Don't Ask (1993)
  • The August sun, God's blood-blister...
    • Watch Your Back (2006)
  • New York doesn't exactly have neighborhoods, the way most cities do. What it has is closer to distinct and separate villages, some of them existing on different continents, some of them existing in different centuries, and many of them at war with one another. English is not the primary language in many of these villages, but the Roman alphabet does still have a slight edge.
    • What's So Funny? (2007)
  • Brian had all that day to figure out what was going on, and yet he didn't.
    • What's So Funny? (2007)

Dancing Aztecs (1976)[edit]

  • Everybody in New York City is looking for something. Men are looking for women and women are looking for men. Down at the Trucks, men are looking for men, while at Barbara's and at the Lib women are looking for women. Lawyers' wives in front of Lord & Taylor are looking for taxis, and lawyers' wives' husbands down on Pine Street are looking for loopholes. The hookers in front of the Americana hotel are looking for johns, and the kids opening cab doors in front of the Port Authority are looking for tips. So are the riders on the Aqueduct Special. So are the cabbies, the bellboys, the waiters and the undercover narcs.
  • Hispanics have a long tradition of defiance against authority. Come to that, the Irish and Italians and Jews also have a long tradition of defiance against authority. Thinking it over, everybody has a long tradition of defiance against authority. (Except the Germans, of course.)
  • It was apparent ... that, all over America, thousands of people threw down a book or got up from a television show and said, 'I can write better than that!' It was amazing how many of them were wrong.

Blogcritics interview (2007)[edit]

"Interview with Donald E. Westlake, Author of What’s So Funny?" by Scott Butki, at Blogcritics (2 May 2007)
  • Life is a slow-motion avalanche, and none of us are steering.
  • I was once — and only once — asked if I could have had a writing career without the movies. That stopped me, and I was very happy to have to think about it, and decide I knew the answer. Yes; not this career, but a career. Without movie money, either from writing screenplays or selling rights to novels, I could still have enough of a career that I could support myself and not have to work at some other job, but it would be, shall we say, a less lavish lifestyle.
  • For me, the characters are part of the story, and come out of its development. I don't base them on people, or parts of people – the Frankenstein method. I base them on what I've noticed about the human race. … I cannot tell you how stories develop. I have an initial idea, and start telling myself the story, day by day.
  • I've used pseudonyms for various reasons. In my earliest days I was writing too much, and needed to shift some of the product over to other front men. I've also done it to establish the different tones of the different writings: Stark doesn't write very much like Westlake at all.

About Westlake[edit]

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about:
Westlake talking about his work and life.
What if NYC were a character in a mystery novel?