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The Blackbird (Alan Grofield #3)

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  179 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Donald E. Westlake, writing as Richard Stark, offers the third Alan Grofield novel of suspense. Grofield is a part-time actor, but the rest of the time he's a thief. But in this advernture, no one is giving Grofield the privilege of being asked if he'd like to heroically die for his country.
Published 1969 by Macmillan
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One reason that the Parker novels are superior to the Grofield novels is that, over the long haul, it's more pleasant to spend time with a sullen sociopath than a smartass. In The Blackbird, Grofield's schtick begins to wear thin around page 100, but the book has more than enough action and intelligence to keep you going.
Grofield was in trouble. Again.

THE BLACKBIRD and the Parker novel, SLAYGROUND, share the same first chapter. The pair are hitting an armored car on a country road. The job was cursed from the beginning. The driver they'd lined up didn't make it, arrested by a redneck cop, and they'd had to recruit local talent. Good driver, but to nervous. Fleeing the scene, with the police a mile away, he drove too fast into a turn, rolling the car. Parker slips out with the money, Grofield is unconscious, the
Alan Grofield is a character who has more humor than the Parker character, but who still is capable of some violence. Unlike Dortmunder in the Donald Westlake books, Grofield is more than a bumbling criminal caught in capers that take very bad, humorous turns. But Grofield doesn't have the sharp, amoral attitude of Parker, a character who has absolutely no humor. In my opinion, the Parker novels by Richard Stark work much better, but The Blackbird is a fast-paced Grofield caper. Because of the t ...more
Steve Isaak
Blackbird is my favorite Grofeld novel thus far - not only is it humorous, action-packed, James Bond-esque and tightly written, it also ties other elements (including some of their more intriguing characters) from previous Grofeld books into this fast-moving tie-together story, which is attention-getting from its first word to its last. Like every Stark work I've read this is worth owning.

Followed by Lemons Don't Lie.

(This review originally appeared on the Reading & Writing By Pub Light sit
One thing I love about Westlake is how he often seems to be amusing himself by playing with the genre and formalist conventions of the pulp novel--but he never does so in an ostentatious manner. Observant readers will note that THE BLACKBIRD has almost exactly the same first chapter as SLAYGROUND. While Parker winds up in an amusement park in that novel, Grofield wakes up in the hospital, and soon finds himself shanghaied into a job as an agent for the US government, deep undercover in rural Can ...more
John Wilson
An armored car-heist run jointly with Parker goes awry, and the two try to scatter before the law shows up. While Parker winds up spending the night in an amusement park, Grofield is not so lucky. He wakes up in a hospital bed with CIA goons in attendance. They'll overlook the armored car job if he'll play spy for them in exotic, er...Quebec. Representatives from several (fictional) Third World countries - whom Grofield just happens to know - are gathering, and the CIA needs to know why.

The writ
Joe  Noir
Regaining consciousness in a hospital room after an armored car heist goes wrong places Grofield in a position to be blackmailed into spying for a shadowy arm of the U.S. intelligence network. He can fulfill his mission, or be sent to prison. Several leaders from third world nations are secretly meeting in Quebec. The U.S. wants to know why. Grofield is the perfect candidate for this assignment because he’s previously met two of the principals.

This novel shares the same first chapter as Slaygrou
(More like 3.5 stars but I'm rounding up.)

The Blackbird's opening chapter is almost the same as the first chapter of Slayground from the Parker series. While Slayground follows Parker, Blackbird follows Grofield, who is caught and then offered his freedom in exchange with helping an unnamed agency of the US government.

So Grofield is off to Quebec, where he's supposed to report on a meeting of third world leaders (which just happens to involve characters from the two previous Grofield novels). A
A fascinating exercise by Richard Stark/Donald E. Westlake, in which he uses the first chapter of the Parker novel Slayground and spins it off into a novel featuring Parker's fellow heister, Grofield. For me, Grofield doesn't work as a central character. He doesn't have the terse bulletheadness of Parker. Grofield gets involved in a unbelievable, plate-spinning, James Bond-lite spy scam that Stark keeps entertaining, well-written, and readable enough. But he just ain't Parker.
Third of the four Grofield novels, this one is similar in tone to the previous two. Grofield is pulled into international politics, against his will as usual, and has to try to save his skin. This one shares a chapter with SLAYGROUND, which is a Parker novel, and they have some other similarities: cold weather, one man vs. many, surviving only by your wits, etc.

Grofield is a compelling protagonist, but this is really just a play on the "secret agent" formula, and I'm glad Stark (Westlake) decide
Two roads converged with an armored car heist. And sorry he could not travel both, Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake) decided to follow both anyway.

One road pushes Alan Grofield to become a reluctant spy (with the threat of prison). It reconnects Grofield with some of the characters he met in his previous solo outings and gives us the full Grofield spectrum: self-interested, sarcastic, and self-indulgent to extremely capable.

(view spoiler)
Not as good as the other ones. More spy stuff and blackmail to work for the government. Maybe it was just a little too political for me for the character. But it dealt with him running around in the snow, I guess that's sorta fitting considering the season.
Such a great change of pace from the Parker novels and a spy story that is constructed in such a way that you are not rooting for the bad guy (like in the Parker series) but you're rooting for the least-bad guy among all the bad guys.
light, fast, amusing read.
#3 in the Alan Grofield series.

Alan Grofield series - An armored car-heist run with Parker goes awry, and the two try to scatter before the law shows up. Grofield wakes up in a hospital bed with CIA goons in attendance. They'll overlook the armored car job if he'll play spy for them in Quebec. Representatives from several Third World countries are gathering, and the CIA needs to know why.
2.5 stars

Grofield and international political intrigue. Fun read, but it doesn't quite work. Added .5 star because Grofield amuses me. This book shares a chapter from the Parker series Slayground and answers the question as to what happened to Grofield.
Denise M.
Sep 14, 2009 Denise M. marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
AKA: Alan Marshall, Alan Marsh, James Blue, Ben Christopher, Edwin West, John B. Allan, Curt Clark, Tucker Coe, P.N. Castor, Timothy J. Culver, J. Morgan Cunningham, Samuel Holt, Judson Jack Carmichael, Richard Stark, Donald E. Westlake
This is much better than the previous two Grofield books. I think the major difference is that this one actually felt like he was being put into danger, while the other felt more like the author was just having fun with him.
Alan Grofield is unlucky in scores. He gets caught by the cops, recruited to help an unidentified government agency, and gets tossed into international intrigue. He uses his wits, and his experience to prevail, though.
Finally, a Grofield novel that worked for me, and that's probably because I finally got the formula down. Also, because it ended up focusing more on the how of things than previous books.
Nathan Shumate
Richard Stark's novels may not be deep, but they're extremely competent palate-cleansers with no pretensions.
Despite the worst cover ever on my library's copy this is a fine comic crime caper.
Fast, fun, and a great way to make the trip go better! Westlake never lets me down!
My favorite of the Grofield stand alone novels, so far.
Matt is currently reading it
Oct 09, 2015
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Melanie Mac marked it as to-read
Sep 29, 2015
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Other Books in the Series

Alan Grofield (4 books)
  • The Damsel (Alan Grofield, #1)
  • The Dame (Alan Grofield, #2)
  • Lemons Never Lie (Alan Grofield, #4)
The Hunter (Parker, #1) The Man With The Getaway Face (Parker, #2) The Outfit (Parker, #3) The Score (Parker, #5) The Mourner (Parker, #4)

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