Tuesday, January 02, 2007

1. Lemons Never Lie by Richard Stark

Lemons Never Lie cover pictureRichard Stark is now well-known nom de clef of the well-known mystery author Donald E. Westlake. As Stark, In the 70s, he wrote a series of heist books starring an efficient criminal named Parker. These are my favorite books in the world and I've read the entire series three times now and will continue to read them. One of the side characters and heisting allies of Parker was a guy named Grofield. A little more intellectual and less brutal than Parker, Grofield was nonetheless a pro. He had people skills, lockpicking and disguise. His deal is that he's an actor and has his own summer stock theatre, that is constantly running out of money. Stark wrote three side novels about Grofield, The Dame, The Damsel and Lemons Never Lie. The first two were okay, but a bit light and funny and didn't capture the diamond-hard intensity of the Parker books. I could never find Lemons Never Lie (if you ever see it in old paperback, grab it), but fortunately for readers everywhere, Hard Case Crime just re-released it in a nice small paperback with a beautiful painted cover, in the best pulp tradition.

I am very pleased to report that Lemons Never Lie is up there with the better Parker books. It's a straight-up heist, Actually, straight-up is not a good word to describe the jobs that go down because they always end up getting complicated, usually through human foibles. In Lemons, Grofield gets asked to join a job in Vegas, decides the guy who is running it, Myers, is an idiot and backs out. Myers is an idiot, but a ruthless and psychopathic one and he retaliates, causing a chain of events that chase Grofield throughout the novel until it goes too far and Grofield has to start doing the chasing.

Lemons Never Lie is an integral part of the Parker arc. And a great book. There are two heists, tons of fighting and scamming, great underworld locations and characters (the scene where they buy the stolen semi is fantastic) and important advice. Reading the entire Parker line is a requirement for a career in heisting. For example:

"The best driver for anything, including going quickly away from where you no longer want to be, is not the guy who will kick the car across the state, the guy who love speed—the best driver is the guy who loves cars. He'll get more out of the car, and he'll live longer."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I did not know that Stark and Westlake are one and the same! Nice.