Masters of Voice: Donald E. Westlake

I wish I had discovered Donald E. Westlake years earlier than I did. He is a writing hero for his ability to tell a story and to make it zing. His The Ax is as terrifying a novel as I’ve ever read. His Parker character is legendary, but it’s the Dortmunder crew I love most.

Here are some favorite examples of his distinctive wit:

They, all of them, the men and the women’s auxiliary, too, were hunched over their drinks with that thousand-yard stare that suggests therapy was no longer an option. In short, the place looked like that section of the socialist realist mural where the workers have been utterly shafted by the plutocrats.

– Watch Your Back (2005)


The lawyers were young bird dogs, skinny and focused. They looked like brother and sister, both tall and thin with very sharp features and thick black hair swept straight back as though they used a wind tunnel for haircare.

– The Road to Ruin (2004)


To the south, the other building’s ground floor housed a restaurant supply wholesaler, whose strategy in the realm of security lighting was one illuminated wall clock at the rear of the showroom, in the pink glow of which were tumbled all the fast-food counters, bartops, banquettes, ovens, walk-in freezers, and wooden cases of dinnerware recently collected from enterprises that had unfortunately stumbled into nonexistence and whose gear was now awaiting the next hopeful entrepreneur with a certified check in his pocket.

– Get Real (2009)

Bob’s aside: What a sentence! 80 words and he kept the thread and humor!

Tina Pausto could create a stir at the Academy Awards. At the Good Rep theatre, she caused more than one patron to walk into a wall. So tall, so sleek, so slender, poured into a basic little black dress from which her completely admirable silvery legs emerged and emerged and emerged. Josh, next to her, felt it must be like this to walk your pet cheetah.

– Money for Nothing (2003)

Originally posted in Blog Bobaloo, June 2012


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