Category Archives: Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark

Interview: New Jersey crime writer, Wallace Stroby


Wallace Stroby was an award-winning journalist who quit his job as an editor at New Jersey’s Star-Ledger of Newark newspaper, to write crime fiction full time. A life long New Jersey native, he is the author of six books, of which his debut, The Barb Wire Kiss, was a finalist for the 2004 Barry Award for best first novel. His last three books, Cold Shot to the Heart, Kings of Midnight, Shoot the Woman First, feature the female professional criminal character, Crissa Stone. This is an edited version of an interview, which I conducted at Noir Con 2014 in Philadelphia, that originally appeared in issue 17 of Crime FactoryHis latest Crissa Stone book The Devil’s Share, is out now.

Let’s start of with your recent books featuring the character of Crissa Stone. What was the inspiration behind writing these?

I always wanted to write a book from the point of a view of a career criminal. In my third novel, Gone ‘Til November, half of the book was from the point of view of an ageing black hit man but the main character was actually a woman, the only female sheriff’s deputy in a small town, a woman in a man’s world and I liked that idea. So coming off Gone ‘Til November I wanted to combine those two and do a story about a career criminal who was a woman in a man’s world.… Read more

Pulp Friday: The Smashers

The smashers“A novel of The Organisation – girls, horses, dope, murder.”

Regular readers will be familiar by now with my admiration for the late Donald Westlake. Westlake was the hard boiled writer’s hard-boiled crime writer, having penned numerous books over his career, including the wonderful Parker novels under the pseudonym of Richard Stark.

Today’s Pulp Friday is one of Westlake’s early efforts, The Smashers, aka The Cutie, aka The Mercenaries. This edition is the first Dell publication in 1960.

The Smashers was Westlake’s official fiction debut under his real name. His previous fiction efforts, like those of his peer Lawrence Block, were soft porn paperbacks written under other names (here’s a nice post on one of these titles Back Stage Love – “The Shocking expose of what goes on behind the scenes at a summer stock theatre”).

The Smashers is the story of Clay, the right hand man of New York mob boss Ed Ganolese. Clay gets a late night call from a junkie with a dead woman on his hands and the police on his tail. The junkie claims he’s innocent and because he’s connected to Ganolese, Clay has to adopt the role of a PI and find out who the real killer is.

It’s an early and interesting take on the criminal as protagonist that Westlake was subsequently to perfect with his Parker books.… Read more

The heist always goes wrong, part 2: reader picks and other favourite heist movies

ST 2My recent post The heist always goes wrong – ten of the best heist movies ever made, generated some great reader feedback. The best thing about the response was that it pointed me in the direction of a number heist films I hadn’t seen or that I need to revisit.

Based on your comments and the thoughts I’ve had on the subject since the original post, here are follow up list of other films that could be included in a best of heist films list (and my shameless editorialising regarding what I think about the merits of not of them).

Straight Time (1978)

A huge thanks to West Australian crime writer David Whish Wilson for alerting me to Straight Time, which I’d seen previously but forgotten. Dustin Hoffman plays a career criminal just out of prison, trying to stay on the right side of his ball breaking parole officer, masterfully played by one of my screen heroes, M. Emmet Walsh, and avoid the temptation of re-offending.

Straight Time is based on the book No Best So Fierce, by real life con Edward Bunker (who has a small role in the film). Everything about this film works, the script, the down at heel late seventies feel, the cast, which includes Theresa Russell, Gary Busey, Kathy Bates and Harry Dean Stanton.… Read more

The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made

asphalt01I love a good heist film.

I love the genius and intricacy of their plots and the variations they come in, whether it be the all star team assembled for a job or the desperate ex-cons trying for one last score.

But most of all I love them because of the golden rule of all good heist films – for whatever reason, the heist always goes wrong.

What do you need for a good heist?

You need a plan for actual heist itself, the getaway, and moving, storing and fencing whatever it is you’ve stolen. The more complicated the plan, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.

You need a crew of people; one man or woman alone cannot do a heist. This introduces the human element and all the problems that come with it, the greed, suspicions, jealousies and uncertainties.

I’ve been thinking for a while now about what my top ten-heist films would be and the following list, in no particular order, is it.

The robbery itself is almost immaterial to how I rate a good heist film. What I like is the context and atmosphere in which the heist takes place and inevitable problems that arise after it’s been pulled off. And the darker and more broken things get, the better the film is in my book.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Parker

Today’s Pulp Friday is a selection of books by one of my favourite authors, Richard Stark AKA the late Donald Westlake.

Regular readers of Pulp Curry will know that my love of Westlake and his creation, the professional thief Parker, particularly his pre-1974 incarnation, knows no bounds.

I’ve been keen for a while now to share some of my collection of Parker covers. The impetus for finally getting my act together is two fold.

First, I recently picked up a cheap copy of the very rare 1977 Coronet Books edition of Butcher’s Moon and I wanted it show it off. It’s got a great early seventies feel.

Second, I’ve been re-reading one of the earlier Parker books, The Black Ice Score. The cover of the 1986 Allison and Busby edition is among those below “Stealing the Africans’ diamonds back appeals to the arch pro in Parker. But the opposition’s clumsy double cross activates the mean machine”.

Actually, re-reading is not quite accurate. I started it years ago but never finished. The story didn’t particularly appeal to me at the time and I’ve since talked to many people who believe it is one of Westlake’s lessor Parker efforts.

But I’m enjoying it this time around. Parker gets involved in a diamond heist being staged by a group of Africans who want to use the proceeds to overthrow their country’s corrupt ruler.… Read more