Friday, April 29, 2011

Donald Westlake interview

Ed here: The Mystery Scene website is packed with various kinds of goodies. Here's an excerpt of an interview I did with Donald Westlake not long before his death. There's a link to it and while you;re there check out everything else on the website.

Westlake: Story defines the books for two reasons, both because story is what fiction is about and because, since I don’t outline or prepare in any other way, the story is forced to emerge or die. “Narrative push,” as I know you know. Once we have the fuel on board—and then, and then, and then—it’s nice to be able to try different things. Not to get digressive, but to give the story little extras. For instance, in one book I saw I had an opportunity, if I wanted, to tell one section in first person from Parker’s point of view. Since he isn’t someone who tends to want to tell other people anything, particularly anything unnecessary, I wondered if I could do it, what he would sound like, and would it turn out to be one of those false notes. In the event, it was fine. (And no, I can’t right now remember which book.) More recently, in Ask the Parrot, I suddenly realized I could do one chapter from the parrot’s point of view, and that made me very, very happy.

Gorman: You’ve written that you didn’t know how editors let alone readers would react to a hero like Parker. Were you surprised when your editor asked for more?

Westlake: When I wrote The Hunter it was supposed to be a one-off. A difficult unpleasant guy without redeeming qualities bent on revenge. Then Bucklyn Moon, an editor at Pocket Books, said he liked the book and wondered if Parker could escape at the end and me write “three more books a year about him.” (I actually did, the first two years.) I really had to concentrate on that, because Parker was everything a main character in a novel was supposed to not be. The big question was, could I go back to him, knowing he was going to be a series character, meeting the readers again and again, and not soften him. No sidekick or girlfriend to have conversations with, no quirks or hobbies. That was the goal. Somebody who, in a western, would be a lone traveler in the dimness on the other side of the campfire from the hero. Now that menacing but unimportant minor character would be asking for everybody’s attention. No, not asking, assuming.

for the rest go here:

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