Question: Other than Richard Stark, you have also published books under the names Samuel Holt, Tucker Coe, and Curt Clark, as well as under your given name of Donald Westlake. Why all the pennames?
Westlake: When you’re first in love, you want to do it all the time. I loved writing, and I was just pushing out too much stuff for a rational marketplace to contend with. I first started putting pen names on short stories because magazines wouldn’t publish the same byline twice in the same magazine.
With the novels, Westlake had a contract to do a book a year for Random House, so if I added a second publisher I would need a second name. By the time Tucker Coe came along, both Westlake and Stark had some reputation of their own, and an emotionally-grieving disgraced ex-cop, an open wound, didn’t belong to either of them.
Some years later, I had reached that point known by a lot of writers: What if I were starting now? In this changed market, would I succeed? So I tested the waters the same way Stephen King did with his Richard Bachman novels: throw it out there under cover of darkness, and see what happens. That’s where Samuel Holt came from. (King told me once that, when his agent said they absolutely needed the pen name now because they were printing the cover, he was reading a Richard Stark and listening to Bachman-Turner Overdrive. It really is all incestuous.)