And so, as trailed at the end of last week, we begin Westlake Week Mark II, wherein, apropros of nothing other than I've had a fair number of first editions of his books turn up in the mail recently, I'll be grouping together a bunch of Donald E. Westlake-related posts, including showcases of those aforementioned first editions (many of them Dortmunder novels), a review of a Richard Stark book, a look at Westlake's signature, and possibly more besides, although we'll have to see how we get on. I did a shorter, three-day Westlake Week back at the start of August, and judging by the view stats a few of those posts were rather popular (as ever helped along, no doubt, by links to them from Trent at Violent World of Parker).
(Incidentally, in case you were wondering, the top-three most popular posts on Existential Ennui – at least going back to May of this year; I don't have data before that – are as follows: That Night at #3; Richard Stark, Robert McGinnis and the Search for the Perfect Parker at #2; and The Hot Rock and the Hunter: Novels Versus Graphic Novels at #1. Which suggests that readers of this blog are a mix of Westlake/Stark obsessives and sadistic gore hounds. In other words, my kinda people.)
And we'll kick off with this:
A UK hardback first edition of Donald Westlake's The Axe, published by Robert Hale in 1999 (originally published as The Ax – no 'e', of course – by Mysterious Press in the US in 1997). Like a lot of the Donald Westlake/Richard Stark books published by Robert Hale in the late-1990s/2000s, it's not always easy to find first editions that aren't also ex-library, despite the fact that these books weren't published that long ago. It's not uncommon for the bulk of a hardback printing to go to libraries, so I guess that's what happened in a lot of cases with the Hale Westlake/Starks. So I was pleased to come across this copy of The Axe, which is in fine condition.
The jacket illustration on this edition is by Michael Thomas, which makes a change; usually Derek Colligan provided the jacket illos for Hale's Stark/Westlake editions. As for the novel itself, The Axe – or The Ax, if you please – is widely considered one of Westlake's best books, perhaps even his best. It's a serious character study about an unemployed executive who murders the other candidates for his ideal job; I'm thinking of shuffling it to the top of my Westlake to-read pile, ahead of the various Parkers, Dortmunders and others.