Six letter writers asked me to recommend three or four novels by Don Westlake. Hard as it is to believe (and it is) there are still readers of crime fiction unfamiliar with DW.
Tonight I'm going to talk about three of his lesser known works, though be no means are they lesser in accomplishment. I'm doing this because other blogs have covered most of his prominent material.
I was especially happy to see several bloggers talk about the private eye novels Don wrote as Tucker Coe in the early sixties. I consider athem masterpieces. In fact when Marty Greenberg and I started Five Star (and were doing reprints) we did all five of them in hardcover. The problem was we couldn't get trade publications to review them because they were reprints, even though this was the first time they appeared under Don's own name. Don wrote a very interesting essay about how the Tucker Coe's came to be. Until last night's blogs I was under the impression that the only three people who knew about these novels were James Reasoner, Kevin Burton Smith and I.
Levine: This is a collection of novelettes with an aging Jewish detective in the lead. He has a serious heart condition and is constantly afraid he's going to die. The stories are imbued with deathand not only of the victims but of the man investigating their demise. This is early but solid work. It also shows how DW could make any sub-genre his own. There is no other police procedural series like this one.
Pity Him Afterward: Some of DW's finest writing can be found in the early pages of this book. Really bravura prose in his descriptions of an angry disoriented escapee from a mental hospital who murders his way into a job in a theater group performing shows for the summer. The police chief here is unique in every aspect and DW's background as an actor in stock takes readers through the struggles of would-be thespians. An excellent novel.
Anarchaos: A nifty hardboiled science fiction novel that first appeared under the byline Curt Clark. "Anarchaos is a planet, inhabited by humans, where anarchy is the only law; where each man protects himself as best he can; and where the weak are soon dead. Malone's brother had dies that way, and Malone has come to Anarchaos, carrying a small arsenal of weapons, to find the man who killed him, knowing that he is facing an entire planet of enemies." Malone and Parker could be brothers. Grim and cunning.