Westlake, Donald Edwin (Edwin West)

Donald Westlake. Photo credit: Jean-Marie David<br />
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Title

Westlake, Donald Edwin (Edwin West)

Description

Donald Westlake is better known for his mystery and crime novels but got his start as an author writing for adult book publishers

Birth Date

12 July 1933

Birthplace

Brooklyn, New York

Death Date

31 December 2008

Occupation

Writer
Screenwriter

Pseudonyms

Alan Marshall (or Alan Marsh), Edwin West, Andrew Shaw, Don Holiday, Richard Stark, Tucker Cole, among many others

Biographical Text

Donald Westlake was born in Brooklyn, New York and lived in the state of New York for most of his life. He served for two years in the United States Air Force. He was married three times and had four sons, two stepdaughters and a stepson.  

Westlake is best known for his mystery and crime novels, notably his long-running series of crime novels featuring the ruthless criminal Parker, and another lighter series featuring the more comic thief, John Dortmunder. He was a very successful and prolific writer with over 100 titles written under his name and various pseudonyms. He was the winner of three prestigious Edgar Awards, and in 1993 was awarded Mystery Writers of America title of Grand Master. His screenplay for the 1991 movie The Grifters was nominated for an Academy Award.  

Westwood got his start as an author writing for the Scott Meredith Literary Agency, which in addition to promoting its clients' work, also provided content for adult book publishers. Westwood's work was sold to publishers such as Midwood, Nightstand and Monarch Books using house names and pseudonyms, including Edwin White (Young and Innocent). In an interview with Paul Kane, Westwood recalls, “Larry [Lawrence Block] and I both earned early parts of our living doing what I called euphemism novels since you couldn’t call anything by its rightful name.” In the mid-1960s Westwood changed literary agents and focused on the crime/mystery genre under his name and other pseudonyms such as Richard Stark and Samuel Holt among others.

Although Westwood preferred to distance himself from his early works for the adult market, in 1970, he wrote Adios Scheherazade, a fictionalized first-person account of a porn novelist who cannot write porn anymore. In response to a request for an interview for the book Sin-A-Rama: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties, Westwood quoted the following passage from Adios Scheherazade,

"He explained what I was supposed to do. There was a formula and a system. There was practically a blueprint. It was the closest thing to carpentry you can imagine. As a matter of fact, I don't see at all why I couldn't write up the formula and sell it to Popular Mechanics.

This typewriter uses the smaller size type, elite type, and five thousand words in elite type runs fifteen pages. My manuscripts are exactly one hundred fifty pages long, my chapters exactly fifteen pages long. I do one chapter a day for ten consecutive days, and there's another book. I was a pretty fast typist befoe I started doing these books and I am a faster typist now, and after the first few books the formula made things very easy for me, so I work an average of four hours a day when I'm doing a book, for a total of forty hours. My pay is nine hundred dollars, and that's twenty-two dollars and fifty cents an hour."

Awards

Edgar Awards (1968, Best Novel, God Save the Mark; 1990, Best Short Story, "Too Many Crooks"; 1991, Best Motion Picture Screenplay, The Grifters)
Mystery Writers of America Grand Master

Sources

Kane, Paul. “An Interview with Donald Westlake (aka Richard Stark)” Compulsive Reader. http://www.compulsivereader.com/2006/12/30/an-interview-with-donald-westlake-aka-richard-stark/

Kemp, Earl. "Donald E. Westlake" Sin-A-Rama: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties. Edited by Brittany A. Daley, Hedi El Khoti, Earl Kemp, Miriam Linna, and Adam Parfrey, Feral House, Los Angeles, CA, 2005.

Lee, Jennifer. “Donald E. Westlake, Mystery Writer, is Dead at 75” New York Times, January 1, 2009. https://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/02/books/02westlake.html

Server, Lee. “Westlake, Donald E.” Encyclopedia of Pulp Fiction Writers. Facts on File, New York, NY, 2002.

Westlake, Paul. Donald Westlake. http://www.donaldwestlake.com/

Profile Contributor

Denyse Rodrigues

Item Relations

This Item Creator Item: Young and innocent

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Comments

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Collection

Citation

“Westlake, Donald Edwin (Edwin West),” The Lesbian Pulp Fiction Collection @ Mount Saint Vincent University, accessed December 1, 2022, https://msvulpf.omeka.net/items/show/815.