The Many Lives of Donald Westlake
I bring up Westlake now because this Friday, a filmic version of a Parker novel called Flashfire will be released to theaters. It is not the first iteration of Parker on celluloid, and it will not be the last, though it is the first to bear the actual name of the character, since the producers have secured options on several of the books. In the past, Parker has been called Porter and Walker and Stone and Macklin,2 and he has been played by Lee Marvin3 and Jim Brown4 and Robert Duvall5 and Peter Coyote6 and Mel Gibson7 and a French actress named Anna Karina.8 In this version, he is played by Jason Statham and directed by Taylor Hackford, and while I have not seen it, I have heard — both from Westlake's widow, Abby Adams, and his close friend, the writer Lawrence Block — that it stays relatively true to the Parker character as Westlake conceived him.9 But still, it is an action film starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez, and I don't have to tell you what that conjures, and I imagine there will be unavoidable compromises to a mass audience, and I imagine that even if it is good it will not be a box office smash, and I imagine it will be quietly placed into the hyper-adrenalized stratum of Hollywood film that Jason Statham tends to populate. And I imagine that anything involving Jason Statham will not force a thorough literary reassessment of the oeuvre of Donald Westlake, even though, at this point, I think he clearly deserves it.