Archive for Donald E. Westlake

Campus Doll by Edwin West aka Donald E. Westlake (Monrach Books #485, 1961)

Posted in Andrew Shaw, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on December 30, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Donald Westlake did a handful of titles for Monarch as Edwin West (a play on his middle and last names, obviously) and this one, Campus Doll, is set in the Andrew Shaw Clifton College universe, with a mention of The Sound of Distant Drums and other little quips found in many Shaws.

Jackie is a student who lives comfortably with her MG sportcar, a four room apartment off campus, and a weekly check from her father–until his income vanishes die to economic circumstances. How is she now going to pay tuition and live the life she loves?

Sex, of course. She becomes a hooker.

This is an awful book, so badly written that it is understandable why Westlake would not want his name associated with it.

The Edwin West titles tend to go for high prices on the collector’s market.  This one has been reprinted as a ebook from World Publishing.

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson (Lion Books, 1952)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on September 26, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The recent film adaptation of Jim Thompson’s classic, and (aside from The Grifters) probably his most well-known, very reprinted novel, had us going back to read this work of psychological crime that was way ahead of its time.

Do we need to talk about the plot here? Certainly many of you who read this blog know the premise — first-person narrative of a sociopath and murderer, West Texas deputy sheriff Lou Ford, age 29, who keeps murdering to cover up his initial crime, setting up an old friend with what appears to be a murder-suicide between the friend and his hooker girlfriend.

There was a 1970s film adapt with Stacy Keach, a medicore actor who portrayed Mike Hammer and Ernest Hemingway on television.  The new 2010 adapt, starring Casey Afleck as Ford, is far more true to the novel, and examines Lou’s obsession with spanking and S/M in grander detail.  The spanking scene with Jessica Alba alone is worth the price of admission, and shows that Alba, along with her recent role in Machete, is moving away from that goody-two-shoes image that hindered her career (most likely cooked up by her agents and managers).

When Thompson died in 1977, in San Diego, California, working his final years as a time card manager at Lockheed-Martin, all his books out of print and forgotten, he told his children that one day his books would be rediscovered and they would provide revenue for the family.  He was right: a Thompson resurgence happened in France in the 1980s, in the U.S. in the 1990s, helped along by the movie version of The Grifters (penned by Donald E. Westlake, in fact)

Lion Books was a short-lived paperback house that vanished as quickly as it appeared. Interestingly, Lion bought Harlan Ellison’s first novel, Web of the City, and went under before publishing it, selling the manuscript to Pyramid Books, publishing it as Rumble. (Also of interest: Ellison originally acquired and edited The Grifters in the 1950s for Regency Books, an imprint of William Hamling’s, along with Rogue Magazine and Nightstand Books.)


Man Hungry by Alan Marshall aka Donald E. Westlake (Midwood #20, 1959)

Posted in Midwood Books, Paul Rader, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on August 22, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Donald Westlake wrote the first ten Alan Marshalls for Midwood (and one Sheldon Lord and a couple Lord/Marshalls); this is the first one that Paul Rader did a cover for.

Man Hungry is an unfortunate trite title for what happens to be a rather excellent, quasi-literary novel.  It opens with 23-year-old Daniel Blake finishing his first novel, frantic behind the typewriter, and now that he is done, his girlfriend  realizes he no longer needs her, she acted as muse and he’s done with her like he’s done with the novel.

Five years later, Blake has yet to publish a second novel to follow-up his successful first.  He’s written four, but his agent and publisher have all turned them away, and have dropped him. Broke, he takes a teaching job at a small college in upper New York state. He immediately gets involved with Ann, a fellow teacher in physical education for girls…they live near each other in faculty housing. At first she is afraid to be intimate with Blake, she just wants to be friends, but she finally gives in and seems glad she did. Blake has no idea why she fears sex so much.

Next we meet 18-year-old Janice, highly intelligent, once a geeky awkward girl until around age 16 her body changed and she became a beauty to behold.  She has tried boys her age, older men, men from all strata, and she’s easily bored with them all.  She has an unknown need to be filled.  She is currently trying a lesbian affair with a woman who makes money by having her taxi cab driving uncle being her men for sex-for-money. When she hears about this new young professor who is a published novelist, she enrolls in his creative writing course and decided he could be the man who will fit her need: not too young, not too old, handsome, accomplished. Little does she know about his failures.  But Ann is in the way, and she seduces Blake, and Blake finds she is a lot like the girlfriend he had while writing his first novel, and Janice could be the muse he needs. But Janice gets bored once she has conquered him, and he has sacrificed his relationship with Ann and possibly his job, but at least he has fuel for that second novel…

A remarkably good read from a young Westlake.

Lemons Never Lie by Richard Stark aka Donald E. Westlake (World Publishing, 1971; Hard Case Crime, 2006)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction with tags , , , on August 21, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Richard Stark books were the more violent,  hard-boiled side of Donald Westlake’s fiction. Stark mainly wrote about Parker and his crime crew, with off-shoots like this one centered around Alan Grofield, one of Parker’s crew. Grofield does heists and robberies to fund his true love: a Midwest small theater he runs. (Theater figures in several of Westlake’s Midwood titles, too.)

The novel opens with Grofield in Vegas; he gets off the plane and pulls the lever of a slot machine, getting three lemons and a meager winning. While people around him see this as a lucky move, Grofield knows the omen is bad. He almost turns around, but decides to stay to do the crime job he’s been chosen for…a job that goes haywire with no profit.  He should have known better.

He goes back home, broke, back to the theater…but soon other guys from the botched job show up, and it’s a race from New Orleans to New York to get the guy who double-crossed them.

It’s a fun, fast-paced read.  The book has been reprinted a number of times over the decades, from Foul Play Press to Countryman Press, and finally a Hard Case Crime edition.

The Sin Drifter by Alan Marshall aka Donald E. Westlake (Bedside Book #1218, 1962)

Posted in pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on July 31, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

So while Westlake was writing and publishing 361 for Random House, he was also doing The Sin Drifter for William Hamling after Hamling bought out Bedtime/Bedside Books.

This one is more along the funny Westlake side.  It opens with 18 year old Mike trying to fuck his fiance, Janice…he has her naked in the backseat but she won’t let him stick it in until they’re married.  This is driving him nits so he takes her, rapes her. She says she will tell her daddy and the cops. He believes her, so he high tails it out of town, joining a door-to-door crew of publicity men for a snack foods company, giving people coupons for half off, two for one, etc.

Going to strange doors in various cities across the country leads to some hilarious and strange sexual encounters, from a nynpho housewife that does a gang bang with the whole crew to a bored rich girl who plays suicide games to a couple of sisters in L.A who lure him into making a stag film.

A coming of age story, and Mike is like Odysseus as he has his adventures and then returns home, wise and weary…

A fun read, a must for Westlake fans.

Kept – Sheldon Lord aka Donald E. Westlake (Midwood #35, 1960)

Posted in Lawrence Block, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags on March 18, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

What a beautiful cover art by Paul Rader!  Worth the price of admission alone…

If this one wasn’t listed at various places as having been penned by Donald Westlake, I would have thought it was one of Block’s Lords.  I believe it is the only Sheldon Lord penned exclusively by Westlake.  The only reason I can think that it wasn’t published as an Alan Marshall is that Midwood #36 is Marshal’s Virgin Summer and either Midwood or the Meredith Agency didn’t want two Marshals out back to back (#34 before it is Orrie Hitt’s excellent The Cheaters, one if his best).

Mark Taggert is 28, a drifter with no roots, hitch-hiking his way back to New York, looking for work and a roof over his head.  He gets a ride from beautiful Elaine, a 25-year-old rich girl looking for something — excitement, love, commitment.

Within hours after taking Mark home and sleeping with him, she feels she has met her soul mate.  She wants Mark to live with her. Only, he is uncomfortable with her money, he doesn’t want to feel like a “kept man.” He wants to make his own way, but what skills does he have to get a good job?  Elaine tells him it’s all about appearance — she will dress him in the right clothes, tell him how to act, fake it that he has a master’s degree from “Clifton College” — a fictional school in Ohio that appears in many Sheldon Lord/Andrew Shaw books and is based on Antioch College.

The guy in the mirror didn’t look much like Mark Taggert at all.  The guy in the mirror was Joe Sophistication, a neat suave son of a bitch dressed like something out of Esquire, a fashion plat with his neck and face fashionably tanned… (p. 59)

(This is similar, too, to Lover, the Andrew Shaw novel where a street savvy kid reinvents himself in order to move about Manhattan’s upper crust society.)

He gets a management job with a textbook publisher where he excels and moves up.  Still, he is only making $150 a week, little compared to Elaine’s $8,000 monthly dividends from her invested money.  He feels he needs to be free from her so gets his own place and starts a romance with a girl at the publisher, Sara, and when he asks her to marry him, he is floored when she says no.

She says she loves him but she is not “in love” with him, and they have a long debate on the various natures of sexual, romantic, and committed love — much like the sections in A Strange Kind of Love.

Kept shares a lot in common with A Strange Kind of Love — both are well-written and deal with emotional vulnerability and the use of sex to mask true emotions.

Another one that should be reprinted.

Edwin West — Who Was He?

Posted in noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on January 24, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Edwin West was another one of Donald E. Westlake many pen names, for a handful of books published by Monarch Books with lesbian, collegiate, and  incest themes.  They are all pricey to get, as many old Westlakes now are.

Somebody Owes Me Money by Donald E. Westlake (Lancer Books, 1969; Hard Case Crime, 2006)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction with tags , , , , , , on September 4, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Westlake - Somebody Owes Me old

Written a few years after Westlake stopped wearing the Alan Marshall mask for Cornith and Midwood, and was establing his career as a crime writer…

This is one of his funny goofy books.  It starts off somewhat serious, with sardonic moments, and eventally takes a turn for the absurd, the way the Lethal Weapon movies got more and more ridiculous.  If you like the humor in Joe Lansdale’s Hap novels, you’ll dig this.

A NY cabbie, 29-year-old Chet, gambler and invisible in the big city,  makes a good bet on a tip from a fare, and is owed $950 from his bookie; but when he goes to see his bookie, his bookie is dead and bloody, murdered.

Two mafia gangs think he did it; the bookie’s sister thinks he did it; the cops suspect he did it; he gets shot at and beaten up and is on the run, having developed a romance with the sister, Abby, a blackjack dealer from Vegas.

Through it all, all he wants is the $950 owed him, dammit.

Flaws and predictable, it’s still a fun read from vintage Westlake, a Lancer orginal recent re-printed by Hard Case.

Westlake - Somebody owes Me

Recursive Novels About Writing Sleazecore

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, Nightstand Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I recently came across the term “sleazecore” and I like it.

I have obtained copies of two novels that are recursive of the vintage sleazsecore writing career:

Dresner - Man Who Wrote Dirty Books

Westlake - AdiosDresner wrote as Don Holliday, John Dexter, and Andrew Shaw, but mostly Holiday, before selling this novel and heading to Hollywood as Jack Lemmon’s lead writer.  Westlake wrote as the second Andrew Shaw, Alan Marshall, and Sheldon Lord now and then (toss in a Dexter or two), and then flowed into his career as a mystery and crime writer.

Both novels draw on their experieces working for/with Scott Meredith and writing for Nightstand/Greenleaf.

Well, at least these guys got something mainstream out of those many hard (no pun) hours at the typewriters.

There are some memoirs/autobios out there too, such as Victor Banis’ wonderful Spine Intanct, Some Creases (about leading the gay pulp era with Greenleaf, and dealing with the feds and prosecution); CharleGirl Who Writs Drty Bookss’ Neutzel’s Pocketbook Writer (about the Los Angeles-based sleazecore industry);  and Linda deBruiel’s The Girl Who Writes Dirty Books (about the some 300 she wrote, for Greenleaf, Leisure, Dorchester, and others).

The SpreadI would probably toss in Barry Malzberg’s The Spread as well, a novel about a sleaze tabloid publisher cracking up, because the basis is the sleaze publishing industry in general, and Malzberg’s short stint as editor for low-tier men’s magazine, Escapade, and his early Mel Johnson stories for Knave and others.

There are probably others I have not seen yet.

Online, of course, there is Earl Kemp’s e-journal/memoir, el.