Westlake Score: Adios, Scheherazade


NB: A version of this post also appears on Existential Ennui.

Let’s have a Westlake Score, shall we? Namely a UK first edition of Adios, Scheherazade, published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton in 1971, the year after the US Simon & Schuster first. Quite an uncommon book this one: it fell out of print decades ago—in English anyway; there are more recent French editions—making it one of the scarcest of all of Donald E. Westlake’s novels—either under his own name or one of his numerous nom de plumes—in any edition, especially so in this British printing. I acquired this copy—for a ridiculously low price—from famed book dealer Jamie Sturgeon, who originally acquired it from . . . actually I don’t really know where Jamie got it from—which I guess is why he’s the famed book dealer and I’m simply one of the clueless slobs wot buy books off him.

The dust jacket design is by Lipscombe, Lubbock, Ewart & Holland, doing a grand job of evoking the era, if not the specific milieu, of the novel: that of the American sleaze paperback field, in which Westlake toiled away in the late-1950s/early-1960s under a variety of aliases. Chief among those was Alan Marshall, under which moniker Westlake wrote over a dozen smutty softcovers for Midwood; I blogged about some of them towards the end of last year, inspired by Trent’s series of posts on the Westlake sleaze catalogue. Adios, Scheherazade is about that part of Westlake’s life, and is also one of his more experimental novels; as Ethan Iverson notes in his brief precis of the book as part of his peerless Westlake overview: “here there are 10 chapters of exactly 5000 words each, just like the sex novels the hapless narrator is supposed to be writing.”

Speaking of other folks’ thoughts on the thing, there’s a detailed review of Adios, Scheherazade over at Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books, but perhaps the best piece on the novel available online (linked previously by Andrew Wheeler, Matthew Asprey and Bill Crider) is Earl Kemp’s “Nobody Can Write This Shit Forever.” Kemp actually edited some of Westlake’s sleaze efforts—quite heavily, if Kemp is to be believed—and his candid, gossipy reminiscences as he picks his way through Adios, Scheherazade make for entertaining and arresting reading. As Kemp drily observes: “The [Alan Marshall] manuscripts consistently rose just to almost the absolute minimum required input level.”