Saturday, August 27, 2005

28. Breakout by Richard Stark

Breakout book pictureRichard Stark is my favorite author. He is the pseudoym of Donald E. Westlake who has written all kinds of crime and mystery novels, including the screenplay for The Grifters. The Stark books were a series of caper novels, written in the early '60s and early '70s starring a tough, methodical and cold-blooded thief named Parker. They kicked ass. He wrote the last of the series "Butcher's Moon" in 1974 and it was a perfect ending to the series. For whatever reasons, he started writing Parker books again '97 and sadly they just weren't as good. The plots weren't as tight, Stark had trouble fitting Parker into the '90s and Parker just wasn't himself. He talked way too much, put on disguises, things like that. In the original series, there was no fooling around. It had lines like "Parker shot him." or "Parker hit him twice." or "Parker waited."

The basic structure of the Parker books is four parts. Part I Parker plans a job or gets involved in one. Part II we see the behaviour and personalities of some of the other characters, often involved tangentially or on the victim side of the job. Part III the job goes sour. Part IV Parker deals. There were some variations, and the overall story arc is really great, with Parker taking on the mob, but the real enjoyment of these books is a super-efficient character cleaning up the mess of life's screw-ups in order to save his own ass.

Anyways, I picked up the latest in the second iteration of Parker books, Breakout, at the new Bibliotheque Nationale here in Montreal. This time, Parker gets caught on a job and goes to a holding facility, where he decides to break out rather than wait for the cops to connect the identity he gave them to the real him and thus expose all the crime he's done over the years and finish his career for good. There is a pretty cool heist and the way things go sour are cool. It's all a bit implausible and it kind of lacks punch, but Westlake is such a good writer that he is always enjoyable to read. It's a quick and decent read, but I would only recommend it to completists. What I would recommend is you start reading the original Parker series, which starts with The Hunter (or Point Blank as the movie of it was called) and go from there, in order if possible. They will kick your ass.


Unknown said...

The other day I found this edition of The Man With The Getaway Face for like 3 bucks - and it's in totally good condition!! Tabarnouche!

OlmanFeelyus said...

Yo pick that shit up!