Toronto Star


- Jack Batten’s column appears every second Sunday.

THE GETAWAY CAR By Donald E. Westlake University of Chicago Press, 256 pages, $18.00

It’s probably impossible to think of a crime writer as prolific and high in quality, in more different forms, as the late Donald E. Westlake (1933-2008). He got off to a fast start in his career of many words. In an essay, he once estimated that in his first year as a writer of fiction, 1959, he turned out close to one million words. Amazing as the statistic is, what seems more astounding for a beginning writer is that half a million of the words were published.

Almost as much as he enjoyed writing crime novels, Westlake liked to write comments on his own work and on that of his contempora­ries and predecesso­rs in the genre. His list of written product includes countless essays, book introducti­ons and prefaces, lists, letters and one memorial (to John D. MacDonald). It’s from this treasure trove of material that an eager beaver academic named Levi Stahl at the University of Chicago has put together the valuable collection he titles The Getaway Car.

Much of Westlake’s mammoth output was published under pseudonyms, a fact of his writing life that fascinates Stahl. The 25 novels under the Richard Stark byline, featuring the robber named Parker, were well know as Westlake’s work, and so were the five Tucker Coe novels. But he wrote under at least a dozen other names.

In typical humorous fashion, Westlake tipped his cap to his pseudonymi­c selves in a detail of his script for the 1990 movie, The Grifters. One scene takes place in the law firm of “Stark, Coe and Fellows.” The names salute Richard Stark, Tucker Coe and, in Westlake’s words, “all the other fellows.”

YOU KNOW WHO KILLED ME By Loren D. Estleman Forge, 240 pages, $28.99

Amos Walker, the Detroit PI in Estleman’s eccentric series, still refers to Canada as “the Dominion.” He’s 70 years old, maybe more. He chain smokes, drinks vats of scotch and talks a hardboiled lingo. Walker’s sleuthing expertise lies in solving murders that don’t appear to make sense. In the new book, the 24th in the series, the victim works as a traffic light programmer. What was up with this guy? And how did the Ukrainian mobster figure in the picture? As usual with Estleman, the book makes a bumpy ride, but for readers, it’s worth the trip.

THE WHOLE SHE-BANG 2 By Sisters in Crime SinC, 230 pages, $22

In the 24 stories written by members of Canada’s Sisters in Crime, we get countless small pleasures. A story by Linda Wiken gives us a Toronto Police DI named Anne Mason whose understate­d but shrewd style would make her welcome in a whole novel. Susan Daly presents a juicy story of confrontat­ions between characters based on Rob Ford and Margaret Atwood. Elizabeth Hosang’s story examines the possibilit­ies of justifiabl­e homicide in the case of two neighbours who have different ideas about gardens. Enough other treats along similar lines make the collection a Sisterly success.

WINK OF AN EYE By Lynn Chandler Willis Minotaur, 304 pages, $28.99

The self-reliant West Texas town of Wink is home to villains as mean as snakes. But nobody does anything about these bad people until a local product named Gypsy returns to Wink. He’s a Las Vegas-seasoned, high-tech private eye. Gypsy would probably get to the source of Wink’s crime wave without the seasoning or the technology. A complicate­d plot, in other words, isn’t the book’s strong point.

But characteri­zation and sense of place compensate for the lack of mystery. Gypsy is a prize of a guy, and Wink is a Texas town you don’t need to be a Republican to appreciate.

 ??  ?? You Know Who Killed Me
You Know Who Killed Me
 ??  ?? The Whole She-Bang
The Whole She-Bang
 ??  ?? Wink of An Eye
Wink of An Eye
 ??  ?? The Getaway Car
The Getaway Car

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