On of the most surprising things I discovered when I was going through Donald Westlake's files in the process of editing The Getaway Car was just how much work he did in film and TV--and how much work that work entailed. The files were full of letters to and from agents, proposals that he write a treatment of this or that book, and even full screenplays that never saw the light of day. For every film that was made of one of Westlake's books, it seems, there were countless projects that never went anywhere, even though a fair amount of money (at least in book industry terms) changed hands.
That said, a fair number of films did get made--and a number of those were really good. Which you all will have a chance to see next month, as I'm co-curating a festival of Westlake films at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. Full information, including my notes on the films, is at the Museum's site. I like the lineup a lot. It's got a couple of straight adaptations, including the deliriously great Point Blank; one movie (Cops and Robbers) that he wrote first as a screenplay, then, after the film was finished, decided to turn into a novel; and two screenplays not tied to his books, including one original (The Stepfather) and one adaptation (The Grifters, for which he received an Oscar nomination). The Grifters and Point Blank are legitimate classics, and I at least have never seen either on the big screen.
Opening night, following Point Blank, I'll take the stage with Abby Westlake and Luc Sante to talk about Westlake's Hollywood career. And I'll be there throughout the weekend. So if you're a Westlake fan and in or near New York, you should come out and say hi! It's going to be a lot of fun.