Westlake died last week, and the obituaries described his talent and his proficiency – more than 100 books since his first novel was published in 1960. But what struck me about Westlake in the couple of years we kept in touch was how much he enjoyed actually being a writer – not the seeing your name on a book or signing autographs part, but the staring at the typewriter or going to the post office to see if a check had arrived part. To this day, I can’t believe that Westlake, who got movie money (a huge, big deal, which made him more secure than the rest of us) would come home and bellyache that some publisher had not sent a promised payment.
Westlake was also incredibly gracious and generous with his time and knowledge. He told about working with director Stephen Frears on The Grifters (Westlake got an Academy Award nomination) and his less happy experience as one of the writers for a TV disaster called Supertrain (he said he got fired). He also shared writing advice and recommended agents, neither of which he had to do.
The author Jo Walton put it best: “He is a writer that writers like.” There aren’t many better epitaphs than that.