October was an up and down month for reading, but the ups were so far up, it was a good month.
The Getaway Car: ADonald Westlake Non-Fiction Miscellany, edited by Levi Stahl. I came late to Westlake, and the more I learn of him, the better I like him, both as a writer and as a man. This potpourri of non-fiction—letters, essays, book introductions—is sometimes serious, more often funny, but always well crafted. Lawrence Block’s introduction takes editor Stahl to task for referring to Westlake’s “jokes,” and is right to do so. There’s not a joke in the book, though there are lot of laughs. Westlake’s strength was his wit, which showed itself in his ability to phrase what would have seemed commonplace coming from anyone else in such a way the corner of your mouth can’t help but turn up. Read this, even if you’re not a Westlake fan. Not only will it be great fun, but you’ll likely become a fan.
The Color of Blood, Declan Hughes. Hughes’s Ed Loy books are the synthesis of Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald. Having heard Hughes speak on the primacy of the PI story in crime fiction, it’s easy to see that passion on every page here. Ed Loy gets hired to do a task, follows through to the end because he needs to know. This may not be the way of a real-life PI with bills to pay and a license to maintain, but it makes for intoxicating fiction. In The Color of Blood, Loy finds the motivations for murder in events over twenty years’ past, and describes them with a kind of prose few other than Chandler have managed. Things get a little convoluted at times and have to be explained in the classic, “I supposed you wonder I called you all together” scene, but even that is less a resolution than the spring that will launch the resolution when it comes.