RIP, Donald E. Westlake, prolific author and would-be 007 screenwriter

Prolific mystery author Donald E. Westlake, author of numerous novels and five screenplays, passed away the other day at age 75. What hasn’t been written much is how Westlake almost got pulled into the world of James Bond.

In 1995, Westlake was interviewed by a columnist for The Indianapolis News while the author was at a crime writing festival in Muncie, Indiana. The column quoted Westlake as saying he was going to write the next James Bond movie — not the upcoming GoldenEye but the next film after that.

A few months later, in New York, a Bond fan convention was held a few days before GoldenEye’s premier. The schedule got shifted around and so, producer Michael G. Wilson and screenwriter Bruce Feirstein took questions from the audience.

One audience member (one of the editors of this weblog) asked about Westlake’s comments about how he was going to write the next movie. Before Wilson could answer, Feirstein, looking at Wilson, asked, “He is?”

Wilson answered that, yes, Eon had been in contact with Westlake and that the author might some day work on a Bond movie.

That didn’t happen, of course. Feirstein would be the only credited writer on the next film, Tomorrow Never Dies, although a gaggle of other writers took turns on the script. Feirstein was brought in to finish the script (after being the first writer on the project).

Over at Wikipedia (click RIGHT HERE to view it), there is a notation that Westlake contributed something to Eon in connection with Tomorrow Never Dies.

Trying to find the 1995 Indianapolis News column is a little tough. The News folded in 1999 and its sister paper only maintains online archives through its Web page back to 1999. As our editor recalls it, Westlake may have told the paper that his plot had something to do with the 1997 handover of Hong Kong back to China. Speculation: If correct, Eon may have taken a pass given that Tomorrow Never Dies would have come out AFTER Hong Kong went back to Chinese control. As it turns out, Raymond Benson’s first 007 novel, Zero Minus Ten, was centered on that 1997 event.

UPDATE: Click RIGHT HERE for another fleeting reference to Westlake’s participation, or lack of same, in Tomorrow Never Dies.