Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Stark Winters' Reading

May the Existentialist Man wish you all a happy Christmas Holiday and let’s hope that 2011 will be a good year for us all. So as I finish up, and head out of London, I must let you know what my reading plans are for the holiday.

I’ve had a very hectic year, with great fun at Crimefest, Harrogate and the thrilling time at Bouchercon San Francisco. But now the adverse weather over the last couple of weeks have been challenging due to my work in Logistics. I am looking forward to a week and a half off, with my family, and a huge stack of books and DVD’s to relax.

Last night I selected a couple of boxes of books from my review pile for my winter holiday reading. I also selected several books by Richard Stark [aka Donald Westlake] who passed away in January 2009 as books for re-reading as I have been collecting the University of Chicago re-issues, as well as the Graphic Novels The Hunter and The Outfit from Darwyn Cooke.

To show how important Westlake / Stark’s work was to the genre, Jeff Peirce published at the Rap Sheet comments from the community and my humble offering -
I first discovered Donald Westlake thanks to the movie version of The Hot Rock with Robert Redford, which led me to explore more of the Dortmunder books, as well as muttering “Afghanistan, Bananistan” to strangers from time to time. But my true love was the Richard Stark series featuring Parker. I loved the spartan style of Stark, and was overjoyed when I read Stephen King’s tribute to Stark in his brilliant novel about split personalities, The Dark Half. (“Anyway, for reasons you’d have to ask Westlake about, he eventually stopped writing novels about Parker, but I never forgot something Westlake said after the pen name was blown. He said he wrote books on sunny days and Stark took over on the rainy ones ...”) It was an apt tribute to a great man.

I only met Westlake once when we came to the CrimeScene convention in London in 2005. I was humbled in his presence, despite his modesty and gentle nature. I find it surreal that when I heard of the awful news [of Westlake’s death], the first words that came into my head were “Afghanistan, Bananistan,” which echoed as a lament for our loss. I miss his words already, as the world just darkened a tad, knowing that he is no longer with us.

So let me leave the last word to Donald Westlake on the lead up to Christmas. This paragraph is rather apt as I survey the year because the word ‘family’ should be viewed in the widest possible context -

“Christmas reminds us we are not alone. We are not unrelated atoms, bouncing and ricocheting amid aliens, but are a part of something, which holds and sustains us. As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same. Christmas shows us the ties that bind us together, threads of love and caring, woven in the simplest and strongest way within the family.”
Donald E. Westlake

Have a great holiday and thanks for reading.
If you haven’t read Richard Stark, perhaps curl up on the sofa and try one of his books, but beware, these are VERY dark novels.

Graphic © 2009 Darwyn Cooke from 'The Hunter'
If you are looking for something to read, head off to January Magazine who have their best of 2010 - plenty of great books to chose from -

1 comment:

  1. Happy Crimbo, Ali. I hope to get to one of those festival things one day and have jar with you!