Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Did I mention that I'm editing a Donald E. Westlake collection? Oh, I did? How recently?

In the [insert value = "small amount of time"] since I last mentioned The Getaway Car, the collection of Donald Westlake's nonfiction I'm editing for the University of Chicago Press, a lot more of the details of what's in and on the book have been released on the Press's webpage for the book. So, with your patience (and, I hope (?) your interest), herewith:

1 The cover design and illustration will be by the wonderful Darwyn Cooke. Cooke has been my favorite comics artist since his brilliant New Frontier series reimagined DC's Silver Age in its actual context of Cold War America. I first wrote about Cooke back in 2007, praising The New Frontier at the end of this post, and I followed it up with excitement when it was announced that he would be creating four graphic novels of Parker books. So you can imagine how over the moon I am about his involvement with The Getaway Car. I've seen early drafts of the cover, and it's fantastic. I should be able to share it soon.

2 The descriptive copy that my colleague Carrie Adams (who is stuck in the, let's be honest, unenviable position of being her boss's publicist) and I came up with for the book has been released:
Over the course of a fifty-year career, Donald Westlake published nearly one hundred books, including not one but two long-running series, starring the hard-hitting Parker and the hapless John Dortmunder. In the six years since his death, Westlake’s reputation has only grown, with fans continuing to marvel at his tightly constructed plots, no-nonsense prose, and keen, even unsettling, insights into human behavior.

With The Getaway Car, we get our first glimpse at another side of Westlake the writer: what he did when he wasn’t busy making stuff up. And it’s fascinating. Setting previously published pieces, many little-seen, alongside never-before-published material found in Westlake’s working files, the book offers a clear picture of the man behind the books—including his background, experience, and thoughts on his own work and that of his peers, mentors, and influences. The book opens with revealing (and funny) fragments from an unpublished autobiography, then goes on to offer an extended history of private eye fiction, a conversation among Westlake’s numerous pen names, letters to friends and colleagues, interviews, appreciations of fellow writers, and much, much more. There’s even a recipe for Sloth a la Dortmunder. Really.

Rounded out with a foreword by Westlake’s longtime friend Lawrence Block, The Getaway Car is a fitting capstone to a storied career and a wonderful opportunity to revel anew in the voice and sensibility of a master craftsman.
I think it does a good job of hitting the highlights in a brief space--and of making one of the points that I think is key, from reader's, critic's, or publicist's points of view: This book is a bit different from the other (very good) posthumous Westlake books. Those are novels, whereas this book, by its nature, invites us to take a moment, nearly six years after his death, to reflect on his life and work, assess his place in the crime-writing pantheon, and be grateful for what he gave us.

3 We've landed a nice blurb from Charles Ardai, novelist and founder of Hard Case Crime--and the man who introduced me to Westlake, through Lemons Never Lie--and one drawn from Lawrence Block's foreword:
“Westlake was a treasure and a delight to read—the man was incapable of writing a paragraph without being witty and memorable and wise—and Westlake on Westlake is enjoyable in the extreme.”--Charles Ardai

“Stahl has done a superb job of . . . separating the best of the wheat from the rest of the wheat—Don didn’t do chaff—and organizing and notating the result.”--Lawrence Block
I can't wait until you folks get to read Block's introduction. It's everything you'd want it to be: heartfelt, funny, and personal.

4 Finally, for those who want even more details, the whole table of contents is now up on the Chicago site:
Foreword by Lawrence Block

Editor’s Introduction

1 My Second Life: Fragments from an Autobiography

2 Donald E. Westlake, a.k.a. . . .
Hearing Voices in My Head: Tucker Coe, Timothy J. Culver, Richard Stark and Donald E. Westlake
Living with a Mystery Writer, by Abby Adams
Writers on Writing: A Pseudonym Returns From an Alter-Ego Trip, With New Tales to Tell

3 So Tell Me about This Job We’re Gonna Pull: On Genre
The Hardboiled Dicks
Introduction to Murderous Schemes
Introduction to The Best American Mystery Stories, 2000
Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You

4 Ten Most Wanted: Ten Favorite Mystery Books

5 Returning to the Scene of the Crime: On His Own Work
Introduction to Levine
Tangled Webs for Sale: Best Offer
Introduction to Kahawa
Letter to Howard B. Gotlieb, Boston University Libraries

6 Lunch Break: May’s Famous Tuna Casserole

7 The Other Guys in the String: Peers, Favorites, and Influences
Lawrence Block: First Sighting
On Peter Rabe
Playing Politics with a Master of Dialogue: On George V. Higgins
On Rex Stout
Introduction to Jack Ritchie’s A New Leaf and Other Stories
Foreword to Thurber on Crime
Introduction to Charles Willeford’s The Way We Die Now
On Stephen Frears
John D. MacDonald: A Remembrance

8 Coffee Break: Letter to Ray Broekel

9 Anything You Say May Be Used against You: Interviews
An Inside Look at Donald Westlake, by Albert Nussbaum, 81332-132
The Worst Happens: From an Interview by Patrick McGilligan

10 Midnight Snack: Gustatory Notes from All Over

11 Side Jobs: Prison Breaks, Movie Mobsters, and Radio Comedy
Love Stuff, Cops-and-Robbers Style
Send In the Goons

12 Signed Confessions: Letters
To Judy ?
To Peter Gruber
To James Hale
To Stephen and Tabitha King
To Brian Garfield
To David Ramus
To Pam Vesey
To Gary Salt
To Henry Morrison
To Jon L. Breen

13 Jobs Never Pulled: Title Ideas
Crime Titles
Comic Crime Titles

14 Death Row (Or, The Happily Ever Afterlife): Letter to Ralph L. Woods

Name Index
That name index, by the way? Yeah, I should probably create that soon.

Books should be here right after Labor Day. Tell your friends! Tell your bookstore! Tell your bookstore friends!

No comments:

Post a Comment