Wednesday, June 01, 2016

A conversation with Donald E. Westlake July 1986 – Part Three: The outtakes

Posting the interview last week I did with Donald E. Westlake for The Asbury Park Press back in July 1986 (you can read Part One HERE, and Part Two HERE) brought to mind some other highlights of the conversation that didn't make it into the final version for space or contextual reasons. Here are a few:

– In the mid-1970s, pre-production began on a film adaptation of the 13th Parker novel, 1971's DEADLY EDGE, to be directed by Peter Yates (BULLITT, ROBBERY, THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE). Yates had previously directed the film version of Westlake's first Dortmunder novel THE HOT ROCK. Westlake told me he and Yates spent a day driving around northwestern New Jersey scouting locations for the lake house where Parker and Claire live in the novel. The project was eventually abandoned.

– Bill Cosby optioned Westlake's Edgar-winning 1967 novel GOD SAVE THE MARK with the intention of producing and starring. He later dropped the project after deciding he would only "make films for posterity." Westlake wouldn't name Cosby when he told me the story, but there were clues aplenty. When I asked if the unnamed actor currently had a hit show on NBC, he laughed and said, "How'd you get there from that?" He later named Cosby in other interviews.

– His 1962 novel 361 (reprinted by Hard Case Crime in 2011) was directly influenced by the work of Dashiell Hammett."I was interested in the way he conveyed emotions strictly through action," Westlake told me. "Instead of explaining how someone was feeling, he'd just say,'He gripped the chair'."

– When I asked him who was the current mystery/suspense novelist more people should be reading, he enthusiastically sang the praises of Lawrence Block, and said he had recently introduced Stephen King to Block's work.

– I mentioned that it always seemed to me his 1968 Parker novel THE BLACK ICE SCORE and his 1970 Dortmunder novel THE HOT ROCK were two sides of the same coin, both involving diamonds being stolen from a New York museum for an African diplomat. "Huh" he said, perhaps a touch disingenuously. "Never thought of that."

– The tough-talking and larcenous businesswoman Josephine Carol "J.C." Taylor, introduced in the 1986 Dortmunder novel GOOD BEHAVIOR, was originally conceived as a foil for Parker in a "Richard Stark" novel that was never completed.

– The working title of his 1975 novel BROTHERS KEEPERS was THE FELONIOUS MONKS.


Peter Rozovsky said...

Interesting speculation about The Hot Rock and The Black Ice Score. I'd never have made the4 connection, despite the similarity of subject matter, if only because The Hot Rock is so much fun, and The Black Ice Score would probablt be my candidate for the worst Parker novel.

But I envy you for having interviewed him, not just because I like so much of his work, but because he was such a thoughtful commenter on any number of subjects.

Wallace Stroby said...

I met him in person only once, about four years later, at the Mysterious Press booth at the ABA in Las Vegas, and he pretended to remember me. Ellroy was at the booth as well, pushing BLACK DAHLIA.
I like BLACK ICE. It's a lot better than GREEN EAGLE, which has a lengthy subplot that never really pays off. The two best, I always say, are (after THE HUNTER), THE SOUR LEMON SCORE and THE RARE COIN SCORE, with THE HANDLE up there as well.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I thought the gimmick in BLACK ICE of having Parker talk and talk and talk did not work, though I respect Westlake for trying it. My favorite Parkers are probably The Hunter, The Outfit, Butcher's Moon, and The Score.