Monday, September 1, 2014
Book Note: Donald E. Westlake, The Getaway Car (2014)
The reviews I have seen of The Getaway Car tend to overpraise it, as the reviewers’ (understandable) love of Westlake the Fiction Writer tends to cloud their perceptions of Westlake the Nonfiction Writer. As a fiction writer, Westlake was a genius, no doubt about it. As a nonfiction writer, Westlake was at least competent, but he never really tried to be more than that. As editor Levi Stahl notes, Westlake wrote so little nonfiction that Stahl, had he chosen, could have collected all of it in a volume. Instead, Stahl decided to pick and choose, and it’s a decidedly mixed bag (which suggests that Stahl was right not to simply collect all of it). Perhaps the most disappointing item is the roundtable discussion among Donald E. Westlake and his pseudonyms Tucker Coe, Timothy J. Culver, and Richard Stark—what seems like a brilliant idea in abstract quickly turns into a lame joke. As Stahl is quick to note in his introduction, this is really a collection for hardcore Westlake fans only. If you haven’t read much Westlake, don’t read The Getaway Car. First read at least the Parker novels, the Dortmunder novels, and The Ax. (And even if you’ve read all those, beware—spoilers abound!) Once you have immersed yourself in the Westlake canon, you will find The Getaway Car to be very, very interesting. Not great, but very, very interesting.