Unlike athletes, writers hit their peak pretty late in life. This is partly thanks to practice, partly because life experience yields richer stories, and partly because they’ve had a chance to learn from their past work and past selves.
Westlake was a three-time winner of the Edgar Award and a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America, as well as an Academy Award nominee for his script writing. He is most famous for his comic mysteries starring melancholic criminal John Dortmunder and (as Richard Stark) his crime thrillers starring steely, workmanlike criminal Parker.
There are many ways to craft your prose, but when writing is over-decorated or as dry as sawdust, potential readers are easily dissuaded. Audience demand for embellished, overly descriptive prose, now commonly called ‘purple prose’, died sometime in the 20th century. Beige writing, stripped of all frills, can be similarly off-putting, though there are times …