Monday, February 20, 2012

KINDS OF LOVE, KINDS OF DEATH (1966) by Donald Westlake

Ed Gorman Thought I'd share the link to Tipping My My Fedora's interesting take on the first of Donald Westlake Tucker Coe novels. Patti Abbott ran it last Friday; thought it was good enough to repeat here.

KINDS OF LOVE, KINDS OF DEATH (1966) by Donald Westlake

Posted on 16 February 2012

Donald Edwin Edward Westlake (1933-2008) was a prolific writer and over the decades published all kinds of crime and mystery books – and other types of fiction too – under a great many pseudonyms. Of the dozen or so names he adopted the best-known, other than his own, is probably ‘Richard Stark’, which he used for his series of tough thrillers starring the merciless Parker, the first of which I reviewed here. But I have always had a real soft spot for the lesser-known quintet of novels he wrote as “Tucker Coe’ featuring disgraced former New York cop, Mitchell Tobin.

The following review is offered as part of Patti Abbott’s Friday’s Forgotten Books meme, which this week is devoted to Westlake’s work. For more of the tributes to the late, great man’s work, visit her blog at:

“You were stopped,” she said. “Six months ago you just came to a stop, as though somebody turned a switch. Maybe this will get your started again.”

In his salad days Westlake collaborated a number of times with his friend Lawrence Block under various guises, mainly on long-forgotten paperback excitements as No Longer a Virgin (1960), originally issued under the ‘John Dexter’ house name. I mention this because Tobin has quite a lot in common with Block’s Matt Scudder, a much better-known creation in crime writing annals but who actually appeared ten years after Westlake published the first Tucker Coe mystery, Kinds of Love, Kinds of Death. Both characters were once able New York policemen who, following a spectacular fall from grace, have left the force and end up working as un-licensed private investigators, haunted by the guilt over a death for which they feel responsible. In Tobin’s case he was conducting an extra-marital affair which left his partner working alone one fateful evening. While Tobin was visiting his mistress (the wife of a crook he put away), his partner as usual covered up for him and went alone to make an arrest, getting killed in the process.

Six months later, Tobin is still living in Queens with his wife and 13-year-old son but has otherwise retreated from real life. Instead he has begun to put all his energy into building a large wall in his back yard, one which will eventually envelope his house and, presumably, permanently cut him off from the society he feels he has offended. Then one day one of Ernie Rembek’s men comes to call … Rembek is a senior member of the Outfit (aka The Syndicate aka the mob), which features heavily in many of the Stark novels, and has a big problem on his hands. His mistress, Rita, had gone missing with $80,000 of the organisation’s money but now her body has turned up in a motel. She has been beaten to death and the cash is missing. And he think it was one of his own men who did it, so he can’t go to the police …

“Failure is your way of life,” I said. “Don’t try to change it.”



Anonymous said...

Those Tobin books are purest quality Westlake. I wish someone would find some more of them in their basement!
But actually, Scudder did not experience a "spectacular fall from grace"; rather he took himself off the NYPD after accidentally killing a little girl in an incident for which he was commended. It's a reach to say the two characters are similar, IMHO.
And Ed, your own books with a lead named Tobin are quite good and among my favorites of yours. Bring 'em back!

Ed Gorman said...

I agree with you about Scudder. He's purely Larry Block's creation. As for my own Tobin...for the millions of people unfamiliar with the two books MURDER ON THE AISLE & SEVERAL DEATHS LATER...they're about a very short alcoholic movie critic and the tone is serio-comic. They were written fairly early in my career. Most of the critics loved them but they did't get an audience of any kind. They were the first and only books that dealt (marginally) with my own alcoholism. I hope to have them on e books at very reasonable prices soon. Thanks for asking.

RJR said...

The Tucker Coe's were my favorite of Westlake's books when they came out, and they still are--especiallty the first two.
I also enjoyed Ed's Tobin books. It would be nice to see them back.