Monday, January 12, 2015

One last (?) ride in The Getaway Car

It's been a while since I gathered reviews for The Getaway Car, and a big one has just appeared to cap off a long and very gratifying publicity run, so I hope you won't mind indulging me in a bit of linking and smiling. Like I told Gil Roth when he interviewed me for his Virtual Memories podcast recently, the nice thing about editing a book of someone else's work is that you can sing its praises wholeheartedly without feeling fully sheepish: it's their work, after all, not yours.

The biggest review thus far came from the Wall Street Journal, in which William Kristol went a bit farther than even I would be willing to go:
I hope I won’t shock anyone, but will merely expose myself to good-natured ridicule, if I profess myself inclined to the opinion that Donald E. Westlake (1933-2008) was the greatest modern American novelist.
The best thing about that review was that Kristol urged people not just to get The Getaway Car, but to go pick up the Parker books, too--and subsequent sales showed that a lot of folks took his advice.

Perhaps the review that meant the most to me came from the Washington Post, where Michael Dirda--a longtime IBRL favorite--was full of praise:
The Getaway Car may seem an odd title for a nonfiction miscellany, but it derives from a remark by Abby Adams Westlake. Her husband, she said, “no matter where he was headed, always drove like he was behind the wheel of the getaway car.” That suggests something of the rush and exhilaration with which most readers will turn these pages.
Having Michael Dirda say that the book was "expertly edited" really warmed my heart.

In the Daily Beast, longtime Westlake fan Malcolm Jones raved about the book and the oeuvre:
Is a posthumous collection of miscellaneous pieces (even one as smartly edited as this one) a good place to first encounter a writer known for his fiction? Normally I would say no, but in Westlake’s case, there really is no wrong way to approach his work. It is after all his sensibility—funny, fatalistic, humane but never sappy and always a little off kilter—that gives his writing its flavor, and you can find that sensibility in these pages as surely as you can in the novels. Because ultimately Westlake was not this kind of writer, or that kind, not a crime writer, or a satirist, or a comedian. He was just a writer, and as good as they come.
In the Guardian, meanwhile, my online friend P. D. Smith wrote a brief, but very appreciative review--the subhead says it all:
This wonderful collection, edited by Levi Stahl, includes entertaining autobiographical insights from the prolific American crime writer.
And then, to cap it all off, the New York Times Book Review on Sunday featured a brief review by Charles Finch (who earlier in the Chicago Tribune had named The Getaway Car one of the five best books to get a suspense fan this year). Finch wrote:
"This is a book for fans," Stahl insists in his introduction—the sole misstep of his whole enterprise, because in fact this is a book for everyone, anyone who likes mystery novels or good writing or wit and passion and intelligence, regardless of their source. . . . Stahl has assembled these pieces both lovingly and wisely. . . . A collection [that] one hopes will find him new readers.
Don't mind me. I'll just be over here blushing. I knew going into this project that I was going to enjoy the whole process, but the ride has been even more fun than I expected--thanks for going along on it with me.

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