Wednesday, April 22, 2015

If You Only Read One Book by this Writer, read this one.

I thought this might be fun to play now and then. You can choose their first book, their best book, the book that is most indicative of their body of work. Whatever makes sense to you.

Let's take Donald Westlake today.

If you only read one book by Westlake, read THE AX. The action in this one never lets up; it reflected cleverly a phenomena of the time it was written; the protagonist is evil and yet you can sympathize with him enough; it is an awful lot of fun. It may not be typical Westlake, but if you only read one, I doubt you will have any more fun than THE AX provides.

Which Westlake do you choose?


Margot Kinberg said...

I actually think The Ax is a good choice.

George said...

I love THE HOT ROCK. Clever and funny!

Kieran said...

Parker novels...too many to choose.

Deb said...

I'm with you--THE AX is fantastic. It's also very much a great "time capsule " read: although it's not that old a book, you can see clearly how radically our way of communicating, of staying in touch, has changed in just a couple of decades.

Bill Crider said...

I'm glad I don't have to make this pick. Westlake was too versatile and prolific for me to choose just one. But THE AX wouldn't be a bad choice. Neither would one of the Parker novels. Or ADIOS, SCHEHEREZADE. Or a few dozen others.

Barry Ergang said...

Choosing one book by Westlake? I'm not sure that's possible; he wrote so many good ones under his own name and under pen names. I recently read--and reviewed for the last two FFBs--Drowned Hopes and A Jade in Aries, the latter written as by Tucker Coe.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

DANCING AZTECS made me laugh the most and was the most "New York" book.

THE AX is a good choice too, as is ADIOS SCHEHEREZADE, BUTCHER'S MOON (the last in the original series of Richard Stark/Parker books) and the Tucker Coe book Barry mentioned.

But I've read 64 Westlake books to date so choosing one is hard!

Jeff M.

Graham Powell said...

GOD SAVE THE MARK was hilarious and entertaining. But I'd pick a Parker book first.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'd probably pick the first Parker Novel

Ed Gorman said...

I agree that it's difficult to choose a single Westlake book as the on to recommend. I'd have to with MEMORY, the literary novel published after his death.
As many people have remarked, what if the novel had been published during the early years when he wrote it...would it have hanged him from a crime writer into a literary one. MEMORY certainly shows that he had the chops.I've read it three times and it's richer each tine through.

John said...

I like his comic caper novels the best. So I 'd choose CASTLE IN THE AIR. Good example of an inventive caper, Westlake's wild imagination and farcical sense of humor. I thought it was hysterical and the plot is so ridiculously over the top and fantastical it greatly appealed to me. I read it when I was a freshman in college and still remember it to this day so that's a plus.

Richard said...

It's interesting how sometimes an author just doesn't work for a reader. Westlake is one of those for me, along with Larry Block. I tried one of his Parker books, and one of his others and couldn't finish either one. Sorry.

TracyK said...

I love this idea. It has been a long, long time since I read Westlake and I need some suggestions for a good place to start. I have a few books of his, but they are just random books I found at book sales.

Yvette said...

I'm with Richard's comment. I never could get into Westlake or Larry Block either.
But I've always thought it was something lacking in me since so many readers adore both authors.

RT said...

_God Save the Mark_.
But Westlake novels are like potato chips. No one can consume only one. Devour the whole bag!

Peter Rozovsky said...

I've read about 55 of Westlake's books, and I agree: It's a tough choice.If I had to choose one, though, I'd go with The Hunter, because so much of his later work flows from that book. It's also one of my favorite Westlakes, along with The Score, Buthcer's Moon, The Hot Rock, 361, and Walking Around Money, the Dortmunder novella Westlake wrote for the Transgressions series.

Robert said...

Great! You're adding to my reading list at my new blog -- "crimes in the library"

I hope everyone who visits here will stop by and help me get started by answering a question that I have posted.

BTW, may I participate in the weekly review feature on Fridays?

Gerard said...

I've read most of the Parkers, I may have missed a handful. I would suggest any of them - even the ones Westlake wasn't happy with.

I forgot Westlake wrote the Dortmunder series. I confuse Westlake with Larry Block with Ed McBain.

I've read about 55 of Westlake's books Zoinks!

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Robert, I'm sure Patti will answer (she is busy getting ready to move) but yes, you are absolutely welcome to participate in Friday's Forgotten BOoks.

As for Rick & Yvette, you are of course entitled to your opinions. I'm sure both of you like authors that I would never read. But Westlake is a favorite of mine, as is Block (and McBain/Hunter for that matter).

I've read a lot of books by each of them:

Westlake 64
Block 57
McBain/Hunter 92

The only other authors as high on my list of books read:

Crider 61
Pronzini 72
Christie 86
Simenon 111


pattinase (abbott) said...

Spent all day cleaning the new house and hearing what needed to be done to our kitchen. Sorry, Robert and of course, you are very welcome to participate in FFB. Welcome

pattinase (abbott) said...

Reading over these I realize I have not read enough Westlake. Love the ones I have read though like MEMORY and some of the Parker and Dortmunders.

Robert said...

Patti and Jeffrey, thank you for extending the "welcome mat" for the Friday tea-party. My Friday Review will be up and available at Crimes in the Library not later than 1 a.m. on Friday. Shall I forward a link early Friday (mid-morning) or will you harvest it from my blog in the wee hours of the a.m.?

BTW, I am on the trail of more Donald Westlake via my library. Let the fun and games begin!

And, Jeffrey, no Elmore Leonard? He seems a natural for your list.

Barry Ergang said...

No need to apologize, Yvette and Richard. I can't stand Robert B. Parker (saying this after having read the first dozen or so Spenser novels), finding him derivative, frequently juvenile, a bit pompous, and often flat-out ridiculous.

I know: I'm a heretic. Bring on the stakes and matches.

Nevertheless, you're allowed to dislike Westlake and Block despite others enjoying their work--myself being among them.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Robert, yes to Leonard, but he didn't write as many books as the others. I've read 32 of his, including five of the westerns.

I still have a number to read.

I have to agree with Barry on Parker. I read (and enjoyed at first) the first 11 Spenser books before I'd had enugh. After that I've only read DOUBLE PLAY, the book about Jackie Robinson.

Jeff M.