Penzler Pick, November 2000: Donald E. Westlake alone in a room is practically an entire writers' conference. Under his own name he's known mainly for his twisty--some would say twisted--comic thrillers that have a wisecracking flavor all their own. As Westlake, too, he is the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of The Grifters, a take-no-prisoners masterpiece of film noir and the man responsible for the best-selling, blackly satiric novel The Ax. But at other moments in his career, he has been Richard Stark, Timothy J. Culver, Tucker Coe, and Curt Clark (this last a short- lived pseudonym used for a single science fiction title).
The "Coe" face of Westlake--his coe-conspirator, one might say--has finally been reissued, and Kinds of Love, Kinds of Death, the first Tucker Coe book, will please those fans eager to make the acquaintance of a favorite writer's older work. Originally published in 1966, Kinds of Love introduces Mitch Tobin, a former New York cop whose selfishness has helped cause the death of his partner and his own subsequent departure in disgrace from the force. Now at home in Queens, unemployed and unable to forgive himself, he remains determined to keep on turning that psycho-spiritual knife upon which he's impaled himself.
In a new introduction, Westlake explains how the self-tormenting character of Tobin came to be: "Since I was never content to just ride the road already traveled, but always wanted to twist the concept or embellish it or alter it somehow, this time the idea was that the detective was reluctant to be a detective, because he had serious problems of his own that consumed all his attention." Even given the reality of his despair, the traumatized Mitch continues to regard himself as "an honest man and a responsible citizen." Take it or leave it, he tells the syndicate crime boss who's hoping to hire him, convinced that this dishonored but still savvy one-time cop can discover who in his organization has brutally murdered his mistress. Accepting $5,000 for the job but refusing to keep the fact of his employment a secret from anyone who might think to ask, Mitch thus begins his new life as a private operative.
There are five Mitch Tobin novels in all; "Tucker Coe" stopped writing in 1972. Yet the books he created were both spare and unsparing, in the best 21st century tradition, and so mystery readers can be grateful to have them available once again. --Otto Penzler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Donald E. Westlake is a three-time Edgar winner and the recipient of the Grandmaster award. He is the author of more than 40 novels, including The Hook. He lives in New York City.