1994 Westlake TV interview

Donald Westlake’s son Paul dropped this in the comments, but it’s worthy of a post of its own.

I’ll let Paul tell you about it (slightly edited–you can read the original thread here).

It’s from 1994 but I don’t have any more info. The only thing I remember that was written on the VHS tape was “WB Interview,” which could mean practically anything [The WB Network with the singing frog mascot? –Ed.]. If I can dig up the original tape sometime, I’ll try to find more info. Perhaps an intrepid DEW fan out there knows more about this.

…I’ll tell you one thing off the top of my head that most DEW fans kinda sorta know but not to the full extent. Most people know that Don wrote all his work on a manual Smith-Corona typewriter. (Those typewriters were so ubiquitous in our lives at one point that I took one to my first semester of college in ’86.) What most don’t know is how quickly and accurately he typed. I don’t know if he was ever properly tested (after the Air Force) but his WPM had to be somewhere hovering around 170 or 180 at close to 98% accuracy. When he typed, it sounded like bursts from a machine gun. Try typing anything really fast on a manual typewriter and watch the keys jam in the middle. Almost never happened to him. He got a computer mainly for the internet and once started writing a story on it, but he told me he needed something that “fights back.” Plus, the machine he had was actually too slow to keep up with him (it wasn’t a very fast machine for the time and machines were pretty slow to begin with). Today’s computers would have no problem but back then, he would type a paragraph and wait for the characters to fill the screen. Took him about two minutes to abandon the notion of typing stories on a computer.

Somewhere I have an old e-mail from DEW where he complains about how much he dislikes typing on a computer. He did send me a letter once, which sadly I’ve lost. It was on nice grey paper with (I think) a letterhead, and obviously typed on the Smith Corona. Glad he didn’t pawn it. (Yes, that was a cheap transition made only for my own amusement.)