Thursday 5 August 2010

Westlake Score: The Blackbird by Richard Stark (Macmillan Edition)

It's Westlake Week, Day Two. Which, if you've just joined us, might be slightly confusing, seeing as it's Thursday now, which means Westlake Week must've started yesterday, Wednesday. That's just how we roll here at Existential Ennui: Wednesday is the new Monday. Or possibly Sunday, depending on your own view on when the week begins.

And if you have just joined us, Westlake Week essentially consists of me showing off all the Donald E. Westlake/Richard Stark books I've managed to acquire recently. Yesterday we had a signed UK first edition of the Dortmunder novel Bad News, a UK Allison & Busby hardback of The Rare Coin Score, and an Allison & Busby Parker novel round-up. All jolly exciting, I'm sure you'll agree. Today, we'll have to see how we get on for time, but to kick off, we have this:

A US hardback first edition/first printing of The Blackbird by Richard Stark, published by The Macmillan Company as part of their Cock Robin Mystery series in 1969, with a jacket design by Jack Wolf. This book, if you don't know, is the third of Westlake/Stark's companion novels to his Parker series, featuring instead Parker's occasional larcenous cohort (and part-time actor) Alan Grofield. I've got a UK first edition of the first one, The Damsel, and a US first of the fourth and last one, Lemons Never Lie, so only one to go to complete the set. I've only read The Damsel thus far, but going on that evidence the Grofield novels are closer in tone to Westlake's non-Parker work: a bit more humour in them, although still with violent overtones (and apparently Lemons Never Lie is much closer in tone to a Parker novel than the other Grofield books).

This particular copy of The Blackbird is a bit special, however, because as well as being in wonderful, near-fine condition, there's this:

Yup, like my copy of Bad News, it's signed, and dedicated too, to Elliott, whoever he may be. Unusually, Westlake's signed it as "Richard", with an added "Through DW", which leads me to think it may have been signed close to publication, before Westlake was outed as Stark in the New York Times. It's a possibility anyway.

And I'll be coming back to The Blackbird in subsequent posts, for reasons to be revealed...


  1. Thanks so much for the Westlake/Stark posts. They are
    both informative & fascinating.
    Likeyou I have been collecting different editions of the Stark/
    Westlake editions and I have been amazed by the number of books published with different covers,
    different titles etc. A few years ago Donald E. Westlake and his wife visited our Mystery only shop in Vermont and signed many books for the customers. (and for my collection). The only books Donald E. Westlake wouldn't sign were a couple of "sleeze" paperbacks he had written earlier in his career to earn money for his family. I am very partial to Westlake's earliest books and any Stark or Tucker Coe book that he has written.
    Keep up the good work on Westlake.

    David Kanell
    Kingdom Books
    Waterford, Vermont

  2. Thanks David! And thank you for stopping by. There'll be some more Westlake goodies very soon indeed – assuming the books I'm waiting for ever get delivered... Are the Tucker Coe ones worth reading then? I haven't even begun to think about tracking those down yet. Also, kudos for getting to meet the man himself. Something I'll never be able to do...

  3. The Tucker Coe books written by Westlake are not only worth reading
    but they are gems. My wife Beth and I have read every copy with pleasure. (We only wish there were others). Westlake has signed some
    of the Tucker Coe titles with his signature and "Old Tuck" written
    above or below his signature.

    David Kanell
    Kingdom Books
    Waterford. VT

  4. Ah, they must be prize possessions. Good to hear they're worth checking out too. Tucker Coe may well be my next mission...