Donald E. Westlake Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Donald Edwin Westlake was born July 12, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Albert Joseph Westlake and Lillian Bounds Westlake. He was educated at Champlain College and the State University of New York at Binghamton and served in the United States Air Force from 1954 to 1956. Westlake married Nedra Henderson in 1957, and they were divorced in 1966. He married Sandra Foley in 1967; they were divorced in 1975. These marriages brought Westlake four sons: Sean Alan, Steven Albert, Tod David, and Paul Edwin. In 1979, he married writer Abigail Adams, with whom he collaborated on two novels, Transylvania Station (1987) and High Jinx (1987).

After a series of jobs, including six months during 1958-1959 at the Scott Meredith literary agency, Westlake committed himself to becoming a full-time writer in 1959. He quickly became one of the most versatile and prolific figures in American popular literature. His first novel, The Mercenaries, published in 1960, was followed by more than sixty other titles, some published under Westlake’s own name, some under the pen names Richard Stark, Tucker Coe, Curt Clark, and Timothy J. Culver. During 1967, for example, as Richard Stark he published The Rare Coin Score and The Green Eagle Score, both featuring the ruthless thief Parker, and The Damsel, starring the more charming Alan Grofield. In the same year, Anarchaos, a work of science fiction, appeared under the pseudonym Curt Clark; Westlake’s name was on the cover of Philip, a story for children, and the comic crime novel God Save the Mark. The latter received the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America, demonstrating that Westlake’s writing was distinguished as well as prolific. Westlake died of a heart attack on December 31, 2008 at age 75.

In an interview with Publishers Weekly in 1970, Westlake credited his experience in a literary agency for his understanding of the practical aspects of the literary life. His books have enjoyed good sales not only in the United States but also abroad, especially in England.