Thursday, October 08, 2020

59. Plunder Squad by Richard Stark

This is a very auspicious moment in the life of my 50 book blog.  With the completion of Plunder Squad, the 59th book of 2020, I have now finally recuperated my losses from the early child-rearing years and restored my overall average to 50 books a year.  I almost lost the trail entirely in 2016 with a record low of only 18 books read (and looking back a 4 year-old averaging 3-5 major meltdowns a week was probably the biggest factor, though there were several others) and may have even blogfaded altogether.  I don't know what pulled me back but I am glad I stuck with it as reading has never been more enjoyable.

I wrestled for about 24 hours with which book should I read for #59 and I realized that I had also been re-reading the Parker series and Plunder Squad was next.  It's actually quite perfect since these are my favourite books and probably anchor most of my online interactions in the reading world.

What an absolute joy!  It has been long enough, and I think I only read Plunder Squad once, that I had forgotten almost everything about it.  The structure is multi-faceted and it lacks a central narrative, so aesthetically, I do not rank it high amongst the best Parkers.  Yet it is so full of Westlake as Starkian goodness and so hard at its core that I can still understand how others may consider it among his best.

Plunder Squad starts, as always, in medias res, with Parker getting shot at from behind while planning a heist in an anonymous house. The shooter is George Uhl, whom Parker left alive at the end of The Sour Lemon Score. The first half of the book is more like a series of short vignettes of Parker trying to put together jobs while also dealing with Uhl.  The second half is a truncated, traditional Parker heist where we get the planning, the perspective of some of the side characters and finally the execution.  The ending is whatever the opposite of in medias res is, with Parker barely escaping a doublecross, fleeing a burning warehouse in Soho.

There are several great moments.  The scene when he is waiting out George Uhl in the California hills after having second-guessed the other guy who led him to Uhl who now knows Parker is probably going to kill him.  Just sad and brutal and yet so efficient.  The final heist here is really cool as well in all its details.  They hijack a truck full of valuable paintings while it is being escorted from one gallery to the other in the midwest.  I love Tommy the hippy heister.  Also this one has Stan Devers, mainly anonymous but still likable.  I'm rambling.  Plunder Squad is fantastic.  And finally, this:

Lou Sternberg met Parker at O'Hare International. He had a disgusted look on his face, but he gave the standard greeting:  "Have a good flight?"

"Yes." Parker meant nothing by the word; it was simply a sound that ended the topic.

Next up, Butcher's Moon, the masterpiece.

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