Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Forgotten Books: Murder Among Children by Donald. E Westlake; Committment

Back in 1967 when Donald Westlake, writing under the name Tucker Coe, published Murder Among Children (second in the series about disgraced cop Mitch Tobin) the Summer of Love had yet to arrive. Hippies were still these strange beings who did little more than fornicate freely and toke on as many joints as they could find. The mainstream press loved them. So did paperback writers, sociologists and people who made their dough standing at pulpits. Hippies were proof positive that this country was disintegrating. Hell, these miscreants wouldn't even go overseas to fight in a war that should never have happened. Billy Graham and Norman Vincent Peale (I preferred the stripper Norma Vincent Peel) made muy money trashing them.

Donald Westlake, who was not only a master writer but a master observer of our society, wrote a novel in which an older man, the former cop Mitch Tobin, is forced to defend a young hippie girl accused of murder. Tobin's wife insists because the girl is related to them.

In each book we see Tobin building the wall in his back yard. He literally wants to wall himself off from the world. He has good reason to. Tobin had a mistress he couldn't leave alone, He'd sneak up to see her while his squad car buddy covered for him. Then one day his buddy needed back up while Tobin was in bed with his mistress--and his partner got killed without Tobin there to back him up.

So now Tobin is forced back into the world to find out who really killed the charismatic young man who ran the hippie hangout, the young man Tobin's relative was in love with. Westlake takes us on a tour of hippie life in NYC `67. He has the eyes of a good reporter and the constitution of an honest broker. Tobin sees a lot he likes and a lot he doesn't. I especially like the intersection he sees between crime and the hippie lifestyle. Some very bad people hid out with the somewhat naive hippies.

The book is a pleasure to read just because of those Westlakian sentences. Never a word too many; language that illuminates every situation.

The Mitch Tobin novels are essentially private eye books and flalwess examples of the form.




Confinement, a 30-minute independent film written, directed and edited by upstate New York filmmaker John McCarty, is now available for streaming and purchase on a worldwide, non-exclusive basis through the online distribution facilities of Indieflix, the web’s largest and most experienced internet distributor of independently-made feature films, documentaries, and shorts.

Confinement is a modern re-telling of the classic weird tale The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935). It is about a woman whose physician husband has determined she is suffering from depression following the birth of their only child and has installed her in the upstairs bedroom of their rental house to recuperate. There, she becomes fixated on the color and design of the paper that surrounds the room. The film portrays the impact of this confinement on her mental state and feelings about marriage and motherhood. Or is it a ghost story?

In the years since it was initially published, The Yellow Wallpaper has frequently been reprinted in collections of 19th Century American literature, women’s literature, and horror fiction. Confinement is produced by Audrey Kupferberg who teaches film history at UAbany (SUNY).

For more information about Confinement, please visit the official website ( where you can download the electronic press kit, the film’s IndieFlix page (, or contact John McCarty ( or 518-477-6076).

Best wishes,
John McCarty


Dan_Luft said...

The Tucker Coe novels may not be forgotten but they sure are gone. I only ever saw one used one in a store and I passed it up like a fool.

RJR said...

The first two Tucker Coe books are among the best private eye fiction ever done. Pay whatever you have to.


Anonymous said...

I love the Tobin books. I picked them all up in the Five-Star HC reprints without knowing anything about them, other than I knew everything else I'd read by Westlake/Stark was fantastic...turned out these were no exception. While I still haven't warmed up to Dortmunder (sp?), I enthusiastically agree these Tobin books are worth seeking out.

~ Ron C.