Saturday, August 24, 2013

Donald E. Westlake

I still get a lift from visiting libraries, even though most of the time, I get books by buying them for our Kindles through the computer or the Kindles themselves.  The other day, I went to the library and looked at the end of the alphabet of authors' last names.  I usually look to Donald E. Westlake (and Paul J. Levine) for light reading.  One thing about Kindle books is that they don't have the same book jacket art and information that paper books do.  Besides, I always enjoy handling a book that has been borrowed repeatedly, undoubtedly satisfying quite a few readers along the way.


I think Westlake (1933-2008) is best known for his John Dortmunder series but the man wrote more than one hundred books.  I always thought of Westlake as one of my own private discoveries, since I did choose a paper copy of one of his books maybe 10 years ago.  I rely on the jacket inside cover synopsis to help me decide whether I want to read the story or not. When I select a book, decide to borrow it and read it on my own, it feels I discovered the author.  But in the library the other day, I read some of the jacket information on Westlake.  I learned that many readers and organizations had honored him, that many people considered him the finest comic crime author in the country and that his books have been awarded the Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America.

Another well-known crime novelist, Elmore Leonard, just died in the last few days.  I don't think I have read a single one of his books but I may one of these days.

In the library, I purposely examined Westlake books that were not about John Dortmunder, the thinking member of a gang of thieves who are always planning to make a big score but always run into complications and obstacles they had not foreseen or had discounted. I chose "Money for Nothing", written in 2003.  I found it a gripping story, smooth as a fine whiskey, about a nearly bright young man who starts getting monthly $1000 checks in the mail from "United States Agent".  At first, he is puzzled and makes a few quiet efforts to learn just who is sending this not-unwelcome money but finally just gives up and keeps cashing them.  As the story begins, that has been going on for 7 years, when he finally gets contacted by parties he would rather not be contacted by.

There seemed to be some danger yesterday that I would grow attached to the chair in which I sat and read and read and read.  Very trying adventure!  That book and lots of others are available for check out at the public library near you.  Or, for a little cash, you can download it to your Kindle or computer.

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