Thursday, January 15, 2009

Aaron's Book of the Week :: The Damsel by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake)

The DamselContinuing our tribute to Donald Westlake, the Book of the Week is the first paperback printing of The Damsel, a hard-boiled noir thriller first published in 1967 as by Richard Stark.

Richard Stark was by far the most successful of Donald Westlake's many pseudonyms. The Richard Stark novels were a hit with readers and fellow writers, at times overshadowing Westlake's work under his own name. Many of the film adaptations of Westlake's work are based on Richard Stark books, including Point Blank/ Payback. Colorado author Dan Simmons dedicated the first of his own hard-boiled mysteries, Hardcase, to "Richard Stark, who sometimes writes under the wussy pseudonym of Donald Westlake."

The protagonist of most Richard Stark novels is the shadowy antihero Parker. Parker sometimes operates with an associate named Alan Grofield, an actor who moonlights as a criminal to fund his theatrical projects. The Damsel was the first of four Stark books to feature Grofield on his own.

The Richard Stark novels were central to the success of Donald Westlake's career, but some of his other pseudonyms were not so enduring. One of Westlake's less successful pseudonyms was the pen-name he used for his science fiction, which you will see next week.

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