Cameron Hughes has collected the
thoughts of crime writers about the meaning of Donald Westlake’s death in the
world of crime fiction. Kevin Burton Smith, Joseph Finder, Ken Bruen, Laura
Lipppman, Colin Cotterill, Ali Karim, and Harlen Coben are some of the writers
and critics who contributed. The Rap Sheet carries the tributes.
Also, I contributed my thoughts
about Westlake writing as Richard Stark.
The character of professional criminal
Parker was a shot fired by a precision marksman. It still echoes in the ear of
many contemporary crime writers. Writing as Richard Stark, Westlake, novel by
novel, showed us the rational, calculating, unsentimental Parker, the career
criminal, the clear-eyed professional, anticipating the plays of other
characters in the novels like a chess grand master. Parker planned his jobs like
Special Forces operations, working with other freelance criminals to carry out
an operation. In Parker, Westlake created a character who had survived because
he understood the weakness of those around him and how ... [they] were held
hostage by a combination of greed, arrogance, and fear. The emotional distance
between Parker and others was as large as the vacuum of deep space. Even after
plastic surgery, the world always hunted him, found him, and tried to destroy
He never gave up, he never gave
in, and he lived by a personal code that demanded integrity among men and women
who had long ago discarded integrity like a worn-out horse no longer fit to
ride. Still, Parker never gave up.
In Parker we find clues to our
own alienation and existential questioning of whether we can ever know or trust
anyone. Donald Westlake and Richard Stark are seemingly gone. Dead. But as long
as there are readers on the planet, no one will ever be able write R.I.P. after
Parker’s name. In that way, Westlake/Stark will always be with us.