Category Archives: Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark

10 of the best heist films you’ve never seen

payroll-1961As readers of this site know, I love a good heist film, the ingenuity of their plots and the variations they come in, whether it be the all star team assembled for the job of a life time or a group of desperate men and women trying for one last big score.

Everyone can name their favourite heist films and, for the most part, it is usually the big name titles such as The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) and the French classic, Rififi (1955). Indeed, I listed these and many other well know heist movies in previous posts on this site, ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made’ and ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 2: reader picks and other favourite heist movies’.

But what about the lessor known heist films that are great but which nobody knows about?

To celebrate the release of my second crime novel, Gunshine State, I have compiled the following list of the 10 best heist films you’ve never seen.


Operation Amsterdam (1959)

Operation Amsterdam functions as both a war and a heist film. Peter Finch plays Jan Smit, a British intelligence officer ordered to infiltrate the city of Amsterdam, which is on the verge of being overrun by invading German forces, and prevent the city’s diamond reserves from falling into Nazi hands.… Read more

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