Friday, January 25, 2013

From the desk of Donald E. Westlake. Or maybe Richard Stark? Or Samuel Holt? Or Tucker Coe? Or . . . ?

We'll keep the writers' letters theme rolling along today--though today's entry is our first look at the future of collections of writers' letters: it's from an e-mail. It comes to us courtesy of Ethan Iverson, jazz pianist and expert on the writing of Donald Westlake, an e-mail that Westlake sent to Iverson sometime around 2005:
I’ve always loved Point Blank sort of the way the Neanderthal mother loved that first hairless mutant: did that come from me? And I never get over being astonished at how far that original toss has sailed. In addition to the lowly origins you mentioned, there's also the fact that it was supposed to be a one-off, that I had Parker arrested by the cops at the end of The Hunter, which is part of why I didn't bother to give him a first name. A Pocket Books editor named Bucklin Moon (honest: discovered Chester Himes) asked me if I could somehow arrange Parker's escape and bring him back. It's all careful planning, all careful planning.
There's more of their e-mail exchanges at Iverson's blog, where he offers an indispensable annotated guide to nearly all of Westlake's books.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter already know why I picked Westlake for today: tonight is the nationwide premiere of Parker, an adaptation of the novel Flashfire that stars Jason Statham as Parker, the first time that Parker's name has actually been used for the character onscreen. I'm not seventeen, so I'm not seeing the movie tonight, but I'm looking forward to seeing it soon, and I've definitely been enjoying the flurry of attention that it's brought to the series as a whole.

In addition to Michael Weinreb's excellent essay on Westlake for Grantland (The Outfit "doesn't so much begin as get straight to the goddamned point."), there's Nick Pinkerton's look at Parker's checkered cinematic history for the Village Voice (File under Things I Did Not Know: "Jim Jarmusch . . . can be seen reading a Stark novel on an airplane in 1994's pseudo-documentary Tigrero."), and A. O. Scott's appreciative review of the film in the New York Times.

As Parker's main publisher, my colleagues and I have been doing our part, too. I wrote a post for the Press blog about the books and movie, including five tips for keeping yourself from being robbed by Parker. (And let's be clear: if you'd told fourteen-year-old me that I would get paid to write about crime novels, and later that day get to trade e-mails with Lawrence Block, I would have been pretty damn impressed with future me.) But the big news we got to share this week was that we'd launched a new Parker website that features infographics of Parker's take from each heist (and the bodies he left behind), Parker's rules to live (heist) by, and, biggest and best, a complete, sortable guide to all 498 characters to cross Parker's path in the twenty-four novels. I've been kicking around the idea of doing a Parker character guide since we first started publishing the books, and with the help of my incredibly hard-working colleagues--as attentive to detail as Parker himself--we've made it happen.

So pick up your copy of The Hunter and settle in for the weekend, folks. Oh, but don't forget to lock your doors first. You never know who might be casing the place.

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