Unlike the rest of Hammett's Continental Op stories, which are straight ahead tough guy detective fiction, this book is usually misunderstood becauseUnlike the rest of Hammett's Continental Op stories, which are straight ahead tough guy detective fiction, this book is usually misunderstood because it is an elaborate satire of 1) English cozy mysteries because Hammett was the anti-cozy crime writer, 2) the "weird menace" stories like those of Lovecraft that were his chief competitors in the pulps and 3) the condescension of "true literary" authors towards Hammett's work; ironically, Hammett would die thinking he had never written a Great American Novel....more
Great book, Highsmith's first, made into the classic Hitchcock movie scripted by Raymond Chandler. She hadn't quite nailed her stream of consciousnessGreat book, Highsmith's first, made into the classic Hitchcock movie scripted by Raymond Chandler. She hadn't quite nailed her stream of consciousness style yet....more
"When a fresh-faced guy in a Chevy offered him a lift, Parker told him to go to hell."
Richard Stark's Parker is probably my favorite series character"When a fresh-faced guy in a Chevy offered him a lift, Parker told him to go to hell."
Richard Stark's Parker is probably my favorite series character in crime fiction. He's not a charming psychopath like Tom Ripley, a sympathetic killer like Dexter or a tortured antihero like Tony Soprano. He is the nonhero, totally amoral and ruthless. A professional thief, but not one of the silver-tongued con men or posh burglars that abound in the genre; he is a heister, a thug who has no use for social niceties or other people except as tools and is willing to kill anyone who gets between him and the money. Parker's only redeeming characteristics are his professional work ethic and the cold machine logic that he uses to execute his plans.
The Hunter was meant to be a one-off novel about a singularly unpleasant criminal who died at the end, and as such he is not the remorseless pro of the later books but a furious, recklessly vengeful man. Stark even makes it a point to show him repeatedly hurting women to get across what a bastard he is. It wouldn't be until the third book in the series that he would fully morph from a man who kills his way out of problems to one who thinks his way out of problems, with occasional killing.
But Stark's editor, a man with the seriously awesome name of Bucklin Moon, talked him into rewriting the end so Parker escaped to steal another day (leading to a final chapter that is obviously tacked on even if you don't know the history) and the rest is literary history....more
"When the bandages came off, Parker looked in the mirror at a stranger."
The somewhat uneven second entry in the Parker series opens with a new, surgic"When the bandages came off, Parker looked in the mirror at a stranger."
The somewhat uneven second entry in the Parker series opens with a new, surgically altered face for our nonhero, in an attempt to escape his beef with the Outfit (Stark's version of the Mafia, but in reality the name of the actual Chicago syndicate). The book isn't uneven because of the quality of the writing or plot, the armored car robbery that forms the main plot is actually quite good and sets the template for the rest of the series, but a full quarter of the book is dedicated to the fallout from the events of The Hunter (even the title) and another quarter to events that won't be resolved until the next book, The Outfit.
It basically requires you to read the first three books in order as a trilogy; I only gave it three stars (and my ratings of Stark novels are strictly based on the other Stark novels, not in general) because if you try to pick up this book as a standalone read there will be a fair amount of the book that talks about events you don't know about or aren't resolved until the next book in the series.
Not that you shouldn't read all three in order. Parker novels in general should be read in the sequence they were published, because Stark is not afraid to drop massive plot spoilers about earlier books. Not in the vague way authors do now, but specifics and often the resolution of the plot....more
"When the woman screamed, Parker awoke and rolled off the bed."
The Outfit is the third and arguably one of the best entries in the series, concluding"When the woman screamed, Parker awoke and rolled off the bed."
The Outfit is the third and arguably one of the best entries in the series, concluding the trilogy begun in The Hunter and continued in The Man With The Getaway Face. The very first line finds Parker dodging an assassination by the Outfit, his new face and identity having been revealed to them at the end of the last book. In his singleminded fashion Parker sets out to make good on his warning to the mob to leave him be, leaving a swath of destruction on his way to settle with the mob's head man Bronson (in real-life Mafia terms, the head of the Commission).
There is also a brief complication involving Parker's current inamorata Bett Harrow, present when the murder attempt occurs, fleeing with the gun Parker used against the Outfit assassin, that won't be resolved until the next entry in the series, The Mourner.
Stark's books are almost all divided into a similar four-act structure, the first two following Parker, the third providing short but brilliantly detailed character sketches of the antagonist and various supporting characters and the fourth returning to Parker to wrap up the plot.
Part three of this book is probably the most interesting, a series of vignettes involving a slew of fellow heisters knocking off Outfit joints across the country from casinos to layoff bookies to numbers banks. Most fascinating are the detailed descriptions of how these mob businesses work which, considering that The Valachi Papers were a decade from publication and most so called true-crime books about the mob in the early 1960s were mostly wrong or fictitious, gives one the impression that Stark must have done his research with real wiseguys.
Overall, The Outfit likely ranks as one of the top five of the twenty-four Parker novels and four Grofield spinoffs, though it is highly recommended that the first two books be read first to truly enjoy it in all its complexity....more
This is about as depressing and existential as noir fiction gets. Small wonder Goodis was considered far too dark for the mainstream market and the FrThis is about as depressing and existential as noir fiction gets. Small wonder Goodis was considered far too dark for the mainstream market and the French think he's one of the great American authors. Excellent book if you have the stomach for it though....more
Quite possibly the first novel to ever be written from the point of view of a serial killer, published in 1947, decades before the term serial killerQuite possibly the first novel to ever be written from the point of view of a serial killer, published in 1947, decades before the term serial killer would even enter the public consciousness. Totally nails the psychology of an organized lust murderer, again decades before anyone would figure this out in real life. Also unusual for the fact that it is a female author writing about a male rapist and murderer of women. ...more
"When the guy with the asthma finally came in from the fire escape, Parker rabbit-punched him and took his gun away."
The fourth installment of the Par"When the guy with the asthma finally came in from the fire escape, Parker rabbit-punched him and took his gun away."
The fourth installment of the Parker series and the last to pick up any plot threads from the first three novels. Spoiled socialite Bett Harrow, one of Parker's female conquests, had been present when an Outfit hitman in the previous novel had tried to murder him. In the ensuing confusion, she ran away with the gun Parker had used on the hitter, later making it clear that she wanted something from him in return.
Bett's calls her marker due in this novel. In what seems to be a nod towards The Maltese Falcon, her equally foppish businessman father hires Parker to steal a priceless statuette, the mourner of the title, in exchange for the gun and fifty grand. The statuette resides with a diplomat from the fictional eastern European country Klastrava (a seeming stand-in for Bulgaria).
The complications immediately pile up. Parker's partner Handy McKay is kidnapped. A Klastravan secret policeman named August Menlo has allied with the Outfit to also burglarize the diplomat's home, but for a different score: A hundred thousand dollars embezzled from diplomatic funds.
Menlo is a fascinating character, a man who is totally loyal and trustworthy right up until the moment they waved enough money under his nose to make it worth it to steal the money and defect. Now Menlo and Parker find themselves working together through a bizarre set of circumstances, each intending to double-cross the other once the heist is over.
The Mourner is a solid if not spectacular entry in the series. When Stark's plot delve into international politics and espionage (like later entries The Black Ice Score and the Grofield novel The Blackbird) they seem to lack the punch of his purely criminal novels. These are all most likely commercial nods to the insane popularity of the James Bond novels during the 1960s, which makes it understandable. ...more