I have finally started on the next set of 3 University of Chicago Parker reprints that I got for my birthday this year. I think that it is possible that I had only read The Handle once before. It is one of the series that I have never owned, so I must have borrowed it from a friend. In any case, I remembered almost nothing about it beyond the basic premise: Parker is hired by the outfit to rip off and burn down a private casino island off the coast of Texas, but actually in Cuban territory.
The heist here is one of the better ones. The isolated island, filled with rich party-goers and yachters, is a great target. Westlake, as always, makes it come alive with detail (love the little cockfighting pit in the rear, put in place to further heighten the air of exoticism for the guests) and colour. He also clearly describes the layout so the reader is encouraged to start thinking of the best way to hit it as Parker is.
However, I'm going to have to say that this is possibly one of the more flawed episodes in the series. The complications are just a bit too large and preposterous. Parker is already working with the outfit, hired by Karns, the guy who got to the top because Parker took out his predecessor, which seems a little off. Their motivation is because the island is competition they can't touch and they want Parker to take it out. I just don't like to see Parker cooperating with the mob, even if he is ultimately going to screw them. But then the feds show up and they know everything about Parker and his crew. They also want the dude who runs the island and want to use Parker to that end as well.
Finally, we have Grofield. Now, I like Grofield, but he always seems out of place in a Parker book. He's just too fruity and goofy. I get the feeling that Westlake was struggling with some other literary desires whenever he put Grofield in a Parker book. You see these tears in the Stark fabric that shine the light of Dortmunder into Parker's world. I don't want the light! The ending is this slightly unreal helicopter pursuit in the Mexican desert that just didn't feel plausible or like Parker at all. He even ends up on a navy vessel! I am having a hard time understanding how he doesn't just get arrested after this given the info the feds have on him now (they know his current alias and all his past aliases and link him up with 8 other robberies). Maybe it gets explained in later books.
Also, the heist itself goes down awfully quickly. The owner of the island, an ex-nazi with a really rich and colourful past, is set up nicely and then ends up not really doing a whole lot. He also has a disturbing right-hand man who is offed all too easily. I think I would have been happier to have not had the feds in it at all and stick with the other complications.
Still and all, a great read. I had wanted to savour it and I am trying to go to bed on time, but once the heist started, I couldn't put it down and ended up with the head lamp on staying up a good 45 minutes after my bedtime. A slightly-flawed (in the eyes of a hardcore Parker nerd) Parker is still a work of fucking art. I mean there are sentences in here that I just had to read over again a few times, as well as a few moments of badassedness I noted down for future dealings with annoying people (like when Parker tells the slightly officious outfit manager "I don't even want to be reminded of you.").