"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Posts Tagged ‘Donald Westlake’

Vern eulogizes the great Donald E. Westlake

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Well, shit. The first bummer of 2009, or the last one of 2008. Turns out last night before his New Year’s Eve dinner the great mystery writer Donald Westlake collapsed and died. He was 75.

Westlake was a hell of a prolific writer. He started in 1960 and delivered books faster than his agent thought he should. Supposedly it was bad to try to promote more than one book in a year, so he started using pseudonyms. Under the Westlake name he wrote around 50 books – add in the pen names and that number doubles. Movies based on his books include THE HOT ROCK (a fun Robert Redford heist comedy recently reviewed by Quint), BANK SHOT, A SLIGHT CASE OF MURDER and the most recent Costa-Gavras movie THE AX. He was also a screenwriter who sometimes adapted other writers – Patricia Highsmith for RIPLEY UNDER GROUND, Dashiel Hammett for a TV anthology, Jim Thompson for THE GRIFTERS (he was nominated for an Oscar for that one). Personally I think his best screenplay is THE STEPFATHER, which does such a great job of including dark satire of ’80s family values in the subtext of an effective thriller. He was often known for lighthearted and goofy material but he was definitely good at the mechanics of a tight mystery or thriller story.

The reason this one hits me hard is that one of the other writers hidden beneath the friendly Westlake exterior was Richard Stark. If you had asked me yesterday I would’ve told you Stark was my favorite living writer. Aside from four spinoffs about an actor/thief named Grofield, Stark’s entire output was the 24 novels of the Parker series. These are the sparsely written, ridiculously badass adventures of a guy who plans heists, then leads the team executing them. He’s the best at what he does, knows how to work with the best people, and is usually disciplined enough to follow his rules and obey his instincts. But something always goes wrong anyway and that’s his other job, the problem solver. The guy who cleans up the mess. Usually, but not always, he’s able to outsmart and outfight everybody and get away with his ass intact, and most of the loot. (read the rest of this shit…)

Payback: Straight Up – The Director’s Cut

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

I don’t know how familiar any of you are with Payback, the 1999 Mel Gibson-starring adaptation of Richard Stark’s The Hunter. That’s the same book that inspired one of the all time canonical works of Badass Cinema, Point Blank.

Well, Mel Gibson is no Lee Marvin and writer/director Brian Helgeland (A Knight’s Tale) is no John Boorman. But I think Payback is an underrated movie. It’s a good balance of vicious and funny. It’s got a bit of a ’70s throwback feel and lots of weird touches to make it an indistinct time period. There are rotary phones, and primitive credit card technology that makes fraud more convenient, and the film is washed out with bleach making everything have a pale blue tint to it. You’re not sure when this is supposed to be taking place, which in a weird way reminds me of the experience of reading the books. Most of it reads pretty modern but obviously you are dealing with armed robbers, there is money, communication and security technology that would make some of the stories impossible today. So I sometimes have to check the copyright dates to be sure when this would’ve happened. (read the rest of this shit…)

Exploitation Filmmaker John Flynn Passes Away, And Outlaw Vern Pays Tribute

Monday, April 9th, 2007

John FlynnHey, everyone. “Moriarty” here. As much as I hate ever having to write an obit, I love when the right person writes one. In this case, our very own Vern has sent me a really lovely piece to celebrate the memory of John Flynn. And if you asked “Who?” then this article is worth your time to read.

Last night I was reading Harry’s GRINDHOUSE review and was taken off guard by his reference to John Flynn having died this week. I can’t find any news articles or obituaries, but the source of this news seems to be the people at The Grindhouse Film Festival who have reported that Mr. Flynn died in his sleep on Wednesday.

Flynn is not a director that has been intensely studied, you’re not gonna find a whole lot of information on him (although Shock Cinema did an interview with him a couple years ago.) I really know nothing about John Flynn the man, but since I’m very fond of three of his movies in particular Moriarty asked me to write up a little something.

Mr. Flynn’s most famous movie, the one every one of you should see, and my number one “FOR GOD’S SAKE WOULD YOU PEOPLE PLEASE PUT THIS OUT ON DVD?” pick since POINT BLANK came out is ROLLING THUNDER. Written by Paul Schrader, this movie is in the vein of TAXI DRIVER if it was a little more of a straight ahead revenge movie. William Devane plays a Vietnam vet who comes home to a hero’s welcome, but becomes very distant and feels nobody understands him. Things get worse when he gets robbed and loses his hand to a garbage disposal. He definitely has more to complain about than John Rambo in FIRST BLOOD. So later there is revenge. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Hot Rock and The Stepfather

Saturday, April 9th, 2005

DONALD WESTLAKE DOUBLE FEATURE:
THE HOT ROCK and THE STEPFATHER

Most of you fuckers probaly think Donald E. Westlake is just the creator of your precious Father Dowling Mysteries*, but actually he’s got a whole big resume behind him. In fact, in these parts he’s more famous as Richard Stark. I’m not sure which one is the real guy and which one is the alter ego but Richard Stark is the hard motherfucker who wrote the Parker books I love so much. Twenty Parker novels so far and also four about Parker’s part-time actor, part-time thief associate Grofield. Stark’s books inspired POINT BLANK, PAYBACK and several not as memorable but pretty good movies. (read the rest of this shit…)