Donald Westlake
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NEW YORK (AP) - Donald Westlake, a prolific author considered one of the most successful and versatile mystery writers in the United States, has died. He was 75.

Westlake collapsed from an apparent heart attack as he headed to New Year's Eve dinner while vacationing in Mexico, his wife, Abigail, told the New York Times.

In a lengthy career that spanned a half-century, Westlake won three Edgar Awards, an Academy Award nomination for his screenplay "The Grifters" and the title of Grand Master from the Mystery Writers of America in 1993. His first novel, "The Mercenaries," was published by Random House in 1960.

Westlake wrote more than 90 books - mostly on a typewriter. Aside from his own name, he also used several pseudonyms - including Richard Stark, Tucker Coe, Samuel Holt and Edwin West - in part because people didn't believe he could write so much so quickly.

"In the beginning, people didn't want to publish more than one book a year by the same author," Susan Richman, his publicist at Grand Central Publishing, told the Times.

In recent years, Westlake wrote only under his name and Richard Stark, author of a dark, spare series about a one-named sociopath called Parker. More than 15 of his books were made into movies, and he wrote a number of screenplays, including "The Grifters," which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1991.

Westlake continued to write until he died. His latest novel, "Get Real," is scheduled to be released in April 2009.

Donald Edwin Westlake was born July 12, 1933, in Brooklyn but was raised in Yonkers and Albany. He attended several colleges in New York but did not graduate from any of them.

He married his current wife, Abigail, in 1979, and the couple made their home in Gallatin, N.Y. He is survived by his wife, four sons from his previous marriage, three stepchildren and four grandchildren.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press
Published in New York Times on Jan. 1, 2009.
Memories & Condolences
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26 entries
June 19, 2017
Valenda Newell
February 26, 2014
Thank you Donald. I still often read your great work.
Derek Watt
March 9, 2010
For Donald...

Your words from the heart and
their ink from the soul.

This is for you Donald.


Do not weep for me when I no longer dwell among the wonders of the earth; for my larger self is free, and my soul rejoices on the other side of pain...on the other side of darkness.

Do not weep for me, for I am a ray of sunshine that touches your skin, a tropical breeze upon your face, the hush of joy within your heart and the innocence of babes in mothers arms.

I am the hope in a darkened night. And, in your hour of need, I will be there to comfort you. I will share your tears, your joys, your fears, your disappointments and your triumphs.

Do not weep for me, for I am cradled
in the arms of God. I walk with the angels, and hear the music beyond the stars.

Do not weep for me, for I am within you;
I am peace, love, I am a soft wind that caresses the flowers. I am the calm that follows a raging storm. I am an autumns leaf that floats among the garden of God, and I am pure white snow that softly falls upon your hand.

Do not weep for me, for I shall never die, as long as you remember me...
with a smile and a sigh.

© Joe Fazio
~ /Joe Fazio,
Beverly Hills, California
December 13, 2009
His stories are truly spell binding, and interesting. I have spent many sleepless nights in his different stories, and capers and worlds.

I was very saddened to hear of his death; he was a legend when I was at Stanford, and I have followed him for most of my life.

May he rest in peace, and my his wonderful works continue for as long as he would have wished.

Bob Smiley
Bob Smiley
October 19, 2009
A great writer. I never knew him. especially enjoyed his Dortmumder stories. I've read most of them. will seek out his other works and devour them as well. sort of like a rare cache of gems, his stories. I was very saddened at hearing of his passing.

thank you for all the wonderful stories Don.

Frankie Chocolate
frankie chocolate
February 13, 2009
Donald was my favorite author. I have been reading and enjoying his work since the early 70's. When I was stationed in a lonely post in Korea in 1978, I spent many a night reading his books, thanks to the base library that had quite a few of his books. It made my one year tour much more enjoyable. My condolences to his wife and family. it's a great loss.
Bill Nuzzo
January 22, 2009
Donald Westlake was my favorite author. The way he turned a phrase could always make me laugh. He gave us so much, and I will always treasure his books, especially the Dortmunder series. And Matt Laxton, thank you for introducing me to him all those years ago.
Gayle Score
January 12, 2009
I've enjoyed reading Mr. Westlake's novels since I was 12. Now 44, I have always looked forward to the next Dortmunder adventure, and I'm saddened to think of the author not pounding out a new story about the Dortmunder gang. My condolences to his family, friends, and characters.
Scott Richards
January 9, 2009
I was so sorry to hear of Donald's passing. Although we were cousins, I wish we had known each other better. I'll always remember the day my family spent with him and Abby in NYC many years ago.
Kathleen (westlake) Dovhan
January 8, 2009
January 6, 2009
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Westlake for a radio feature during the Drowned Hopes book tour. He was a great interview, and a true gentleman, and I've enjoyed his work ever since.
Steve Brown
January 5, 2009
He was my favorite author, he had such a gift with words that I would laugh over and over at just one phrase. I only have to think of Dancing Aztecs and will start laughing. I will miss him and Dortmunder.
Bobbie Leverich
January 5, 2009
Donald E Westlake was extremely special to me, he lead me out of the bleak dark world of dyslexia. Granted it took me years to finally be able to sit and read one of his books with grace and in less than a week. At 13 Mr. Westlake was my hero, and now that I am 46 he is still my hero. His words were the first that made sense to me and gave me the curiosity to not give up. He lured, enticed, humored and prodded me never to quit trying to read. I can never thank enough that one librarian who handed me "Jimmy the kid". I can not thank Mr. Westlake enough for making me feel like I was not the only one who buried their life treasures, only to find out they were put under 30 feet of water somewhere for me to recover one day. My heart is with you Mrs. Westlake and family. God Bless and thank you for sharing him.
Camille Richard
January 4, 2009
My father translated a number of his works into Russian and became quite and acquaintance of The Westlakes. He always admired Mr. Westlake's productivity and discipline. But even more so he adored Mr. Westlake's style and voice which presented translator with quite a challenge at times. Now they will probably meet up there and reminisce about the good old days. Mr. Wetlake will always be remembered.
Sergey Sharov
January 3, 2009
Thank you for all the many hours of pleasure. I don't know of another writer who wrote so well over such a wide range of genres. Kahawa and Dancing Aztecs will stay with me forever. Come back and write us some more!
James Monroe Justice
January 3, 2009
Richard H. Herrick
January 3, 2009
Rest in peace.
Henryk Zaleski Henryk
January 3, 2009
I still have yet to find a writer who could turn a phrase like Mr. Westlake. I doubt I ever will. Rest in peace, good Sir. Your many, many incredible characters will live on in my heart and on my bookshelf.
Dana Andrus
January 2, 2009
My condolences to his family.
The first book of his that I read was Fugitive Pigeon. And when I discovered Dortmunder and Parker, I was hooked big time. I love his work, his writing style, his humor.
As much as I wish that someone else could step up and fill his literary shoes, it'll never be.
And as the others have written, he'll be missed.
Steve Pilquist
January 2, 2009
My condolences to Mr. Westlake's family. He must have been an incredible guy. He has been my favorite author since I was 10 or 11 years old (I am now 46). I am sorry that he is gone. The WORLD has lost a great mind. I feel like I have lost a friend.
Best wishes to his Family & Friends
j allen
January 2, 2009
January 2, 2009
What a crummy way to start the New Year-learning of my favorite author's passing.

Rest In Peace, Donald Westlake. I look forward to reading your last novel, "Get Real". You will be missed.
Gail Siegel
January 2, 2009
I realize words can not express what you are feeling. Just know that you are surrounded by a supportive family and countless friends that are willing to stand with you during what may come to be the most difficult walk you take. Continue to trust in GOD for strength and peace.
January 2, 2009
January 2, 2009
Rest in Peace Donald.
January 2, 2009
Westlake had a writing style that I loved -- visual and deadpan at the same time. Never afraid to be funny on the side while his characters surely thought themselves in a drama, Westlake had a keen sense of the absurd ride life is. Although he always set his novels in New York, he reminded me of my favorite Florida detective "caper" novelists like Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen. Read "Smoke". . . main character is being chased by tobacco execs after he samples one of their formulas and becomes invisible. One tobacco baron sees a way to connect the formula to the Human Genome Project and get tobacco sales back to the good old "Mad Men" days. . . just as entertaining as when he wrote it 12 years ago . . . If you have never read him, go pick up one of his paperbacks at a used book store-- he's written a zillion books which keeps a procrastinatin' writer like me in constant awe. My sympathy to his family and loved ones. He will be missed
Jill Wilson
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