I lost a special friend (or perhaps a quirky uncle) with the passing of Donald Westlake yesterday. I wish I were speaking of a literal friendship. It would have been a wonderful takeaway from my experience in adapting his novel Trust Me on This for our stage in 2003. But the truth is we met only once, when he visited our production. He was the perfect author in attendance—embracing, gracious, funny—I cherish the meeting but it did not lead to further correspondence or meetings of the minds. It was the exclamation mark on a satisfying piece of stage work. No, the friendship was of the nature we all have with a favorite author—we welcome them to our homes with each new book, setting expectations on this new visit and savoring it until it comes to all too soon end. I will continue to cherish his comic fiction, his ability to make me laugh out loud, alone in the privacy of my home–a vary rare accomplishment. And to relish in his knack for the masterful turn of a phrase and his joy of playing with language leaping from the pages of his books. I shed some tears today for this friend who has brought me so much laughter. Luckily, I have one more new visit with his forthcoming novel Get Real. And the constant opportunity to revisit with him by pulling an old favorite off my bookshelf—something not always as easy to do when an actual friend or relative passes. And when I revisit it will be with smiles and laughs. Thank you, if I may presume, Donald.
Sad news today. Comic crime novelist, Donald Westlake, is dead at 75. He wrote about a gazillion novels and numerous screenplays and is considered one of the best mystery writers of our time. Many of us at Lifeline got to meet Mr. Westlake and his wife Abby Adams in 2003 when they came to see Lifeline’s production of Trust Me On This. It was resident scenic designer Alan Donahue‘s first time in the role of adapter and he was nervous (as our playwrights always are when the author comes to see the play). Mr. Westlake was charming and generous, cheerfully signing the stacks of dog-eared paperbacks that some of his devotees turned up with along with the new books at our book signing, doing a cocktail reception before the show and a talkback with the audience after. I remember us all flopping out of our seats in laughter as this brilliant and hilarious man took questions. He confided that he’d been plenty nervous before the performance in case it was a stinker, but happily he was enthusiastic about the show. A very warm and accessible famous person, he responded quickly and personally to emails from the various of us involved with the project and even suggested other books of his that might make good plays for us. I’m so glad we got to do the one we did and I’m sad that if we do another he won’t be here to see it. We were lucky and honored to get to know this fascinating man even a little bit. Prolific as ever, he has a new book coming out in April and had plans for others in the works. We and all of his many other fans will miss him dearly.