Prolific mystery writer Donald Westlake dead at 75

Thursday, January 1, 2009 | 6:55 p.m. CST

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Westlake, a prolific author considered one of the most successful and versatile mystery writers in the United States, has died. He was 75.

Westlake collapsed from an apparent heart attack as he headed to New Year's Eve dinner while vacationing in Mexico, his wife, Abigail, told The New York Times.

In a lengthy career that spanned a half-century, Westlake won three Edgar Awards, an Academy Award nomination for his screenplay "The Grifters" and the title of Grand Master from the Mystery Writers of America in 1993. His first novel, "The Mercenaries," was published by Random House in 1960.

Westlake wrote more than 90 books — mostly on a typewriter. Aside from his own name, he also used several pseudonyms — including Richard Stark, Tucker Coe, Samuel Holt and Edwin West — in part because people didn't believe he could write so much so quickly.

"In the beginning, people didn't want to publish more than one book a year by the same author," Susan Richman, his publicist at Grand Central Publishing, told the Times.

In recent years, Westlake wrote only under his name and Richard Stark, author of a dark, spare series about a one-named sociopath called Parker. More than 15 of his books were made into movies, and he wrote a number of screenplays, including "The Grifters," which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1991.

Westlake continued to write until he died. His latest novel, "Get Real," is scheduled to be released in April 2009.

Donald Edwin Westlake was born July 12, 1933, in Brooklyn but was raised in Yonkers and Albany. He attended several colleges in New York but did not graduate from any of them.

He married his current wife, Abigail, in 1979, and the couple made their home in Gallatin, New York. He is survived by his wife, four sons from his previous marriage, three stepchildren and four grandchildren.


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