Saturday, November 26, 2005

47. Nobody Runs Forever by Richard Stark

Nobody Lives Forever book pictureI'd been eagerly awaiting this book, the latest in the Parker saga, to come in to the library. Parker is a cold-blooded, efficient heister in a series of books written in the 60s and 70s by Richard Stark, who is actually Donald E. Westlake. They are far and away the best crime books and in my opinion, some of the best series of books ever. The thing is, Parker doesn't fuck around, like so many other supposed crime books (especially American ones) that are diluted with whiny prevaricating, inefficient behaviour and general lameness (and this is saying nothing about movies). What made the Parker books so cool, was that deep down they were about going against the man, about independence from any organization that wanted to impose its rules on you, be it the cops, the mob or the company you have to work for. The last in the first iteration of the series, Butcher's Moon is a climax of anti-authoritanism, where Parker takes it hard to the outfit and houses them royally. Start with The Hunter (the first Parker book, which was turned into the movie Point Blank) and keep going.

Unfortunately, Richard Stark started writing the Parker books again in the late '90s and they just weren't as good. They were watered down, Parker was doing stupid things like talking to people and walking around in disguise. They were decent enough books, but nothing compared to the heights reached in the first set. I didn't feel too critical because Westlake is getting older and a lot of his toughness was probably the result of the anger of a young man (which we see in several of his other books, such as Killy). Though, The Axe, one of his recent books about a downsized guy who goes around killing his potential competitors for jobs, was pretty hardcore. Anyways, I stopped reading the new ones unless they fell into my lap, as they did at the library.

I read Breakout in August and it wasn't bad. It was solid but not spectacular. I'd say it was on the level of some of the less great in the first series, such as the Black Ice Score. Well I'm very happy to report that Nobody Runs Forever is really quite good. Parker is back in form. The side characters are interesting and the heist is very cool. Usually the heist take place in the middle of the Parker books. This one is all about the build up, as Parker and the guys he's working with try to hold all the loose ends in place as the other weak humans involved slowly break down. The end of the book is a gripping timeline as Stark takes us through all the actions of the characters involved step by step. As a reader, you're not sure which of them is going to fuck the whole thing up, or even if they will. It's very tense. There are also two really hardcore kickass moments where Westlake shows us why he calls himself "stark". When he writes tough, he doesn't blink and it can be quite startling. I don't know if he's gotten grumpy again in his old age, or if this is his last Parker book so he gave it his all, but I was quite happily surprised at how much a return to the form of the original series this was.

I'd like to recommend it to you, but as I've said before, you really should read the original series first.

No comments: