Friday 15 July 2022




Here you go - the first collaborative effort for Sheldon Lord and Alan Marshall...with cover art by the great Paul Rader!

When Don Westlake and I were starting out as writers, we both served an apprenticeship writing erotic novels for Harry Shorten at Midwood Books and Bill Hamling at Nightstand. (I was Sheldon Lord for Midwood and Andrew Shaw for Nightstand, while Don was Alan Marshall for both publishers.) Well. We'd become friends in the summer of 1959, while we were living a few blocks away from each other in midtown Manhattan. 

I was at the Hotel Rio, on West 47th between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, and Don was a block south and several blocks west of me. Then I moved back to my parents' house in Buffalo, and Don and his wife and kid moved to Canarsie, and we wrote letters back and forth. And at one point, we decided it might be fun to do a novel together. Not by thinking it out and talking through it, and, you know, collaborating in a serious artistic manner. Our method was simpler. One of us would write a chapter, and then the other would write a chapter to come after it, and back and forth like that until we had a book.

It worked, and by God, it was fun. The first of our efforts was A Girl Called Honey, and it started when I wrote a chapter and sent it to Don. And so on, and we left each other cliff-hangers and threw each other's characters off those cliffs, and we stopped when we had a book. We put both our pen names on it, and that's how Harry published it: by Sheldon Lord and Alan Marshall. And he included our dedication: to Don Westlake and Larry Block, who introduced us.

It was so much fun that we did it again. Two more times, actually. First was So Willing, for Midwood, and then Sin Hellcat, for Nightstand.

Here's the book that started it all: A Girl Called Honey - and if listening to the saga of Honor Mercy Bane brings you a small fraction of the fun we had writing it, you'll be back right away to scoop up So Willing and Sin Hellcat.

An enjoyable early Block and Westlake collaboration which is a bit of a mash-up with part-erotic and part-crime elements and noir undertones delivered with the climax.

In brief, Honey is a call girl and she has two suitors. One is an air force deserter who doesn't object to her earning the money to keep him fed and watered. (He's a bit paranoid about being out in public anyway, thinking the whole world is trying to track him down.)  And a client who falls deeper than he should. Our trio collide eventually and by the time the dust settles, it doesn't end well for any of them.

Having read Lawrence Block's introduction to the book, I think I enjoyed it a bit more, knowing that they had fun writing it and the aspects of one-upmanship they engaged in with the alternate chapters and the twists each threw into the story and at each other.

I love both these authors books, maybe Block a bit more than Westlake. (Possibly because I've read a lot more of Block's work.) When they banged their heads together, I get the best of both worlds. 

Sin Hellcat has been enjoyed by the pair before. 

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) March, 2022
Published - 1960
Page count - 180 (4 hrs 29 mins)
Source - Audible purchase     
Format - Audible


  1. This reminds me, Col, of a Billy Joel and Elton John concert I once saw. You probably know that I'm a major Billy Joel fan, but I am also a fan of Elton John. The two of them together just made each other better and challenged each other, if I can put it that way. It was an unforgettable show, and just thinking of that, I can see how these two great writers put together something very good. It sounds as though it's got wit in it as well as the story itself, and I do like that. And I'm not surprised at all that you enjoyed it.

    1. That sounds like a cracking concert, Margot. These two had a chemistry. It's a shame they didn't hook-up again much later in their careers when they were a bit more accomplished.