parker offers something very attractive to the reader: a proxy by which she can exact revenge on this world in a logical, sensible manner; one in whicparker offers something very attractive to the reader: a proxy by which she can exact revenge on this world in a logical, sensible manner; one in which the brain totally overpowers the heart; one in which he can charge forward with the cool determination of an animal on the hunt. the clerk at the DMV won't renew your license? wait till she's alone, shiv her in the chest, drop the body in a dumpster, and get back in line. the drunken frat boy ain't moving outta the way and you really have to pee? lure him to the bathroom with the promise of some cheap bathroom sex, deliver a chop to the groin and as he folds over deliver a pistol shot to the back of the head. and so on... parker appeals to that cold maniacal part in all of us which civilized society works to tamp down.
a dual storyline: the one concerns a pretty conventional but extremely well-told armored car robbery; the other flips clean off the rails: the only guy who knows about parker's face-change surgery could reveal his identity and parker essentially shoves the guy in a sensory deprivation tank for two weeks -- when the guy breaks out his brains are all scrambled and he's on a mission. and parker's gotta put an end to it.
there's an interesting moment in which one of parker's team gives the guy in the tank (it's actually an underground fruit cellar, but might as well be a sensory deprivation tank) a flashlight to break the monotony. the guy wonders if parker allowed him the flashlight only to take it back -- as some kind of cruel joke. he then realizes that parker does nothing to be cruel: he doesn't care enough. he understands that parker hasn't even considered what it must be like alone in the fruit cellar for two weeks and the sole reason he lets the guy out a few minutes per day for air and sunlight is that if the man croaks, it provides more complications for parker than allowing the man to live. parker is all logic. if parker tortures a guy for information, he stops as soon as he gets what he needs. then he decides if its more worth his while to kill the guy or let him live. parker can only see a situation insofar as it directly impacts his life and his chances for survival and/or gain. and yeah, as stated: this kinda life would be lonely and ridden with guilt and horror for most of us... but there's something clean and pure and attractive there, as well... y'know?
i'd love to see some kinda buddy cop movie with parker and f. nietzsche. those two'd yuk it up pretty nice, eh?
the Outfit hires parker to head to a cuban controlled island/casino off the coast of galveston, texas not just to rob it, but to burn it the hell to tthe Outfit hires parker to head to a cuban controlled island/casino off the coast of galveston, texas not just to rob it, but to burn it the hell to the ground. the american cops track parker's every move, but leave him be: a case, i suppose, of 'the devil we know (parker) over the devil we don't (commie-financed ex-nazi and casino boss baron von altstein)'
grofield, parker's crime buddy, offers a flamboyant contrast to parker's cold-as-ice existential anti-hero, and that's where most of the fun lies in this particular chapter in parker's life. there's also some nice bits trudging through the deserts of mexico and with crystal, parker's new gal, a small time whore working for the Outfit. a lesser parker novel, perhaps, but one that must be read if you're doing the entire parker series <-- and let's face it, folks: there ain't nothing you should be doing rather than blasting through the entire parker series.
my third post-hiatus parker book. and it's good. a tightly plotted story involving three breakouts:
1. parker assembles a string in prison to break themy third post-hiatus parker book. and it's good. a tightly plotted story involving three breakouts:
1. parker assembles a string in prison to break the hell out before they're transferred to high-security. 2. parker and crew have gotta break out of an armory once their entry/exit tunnel has collapsed. 3. parker and mackay have gotta use legal maneuvering and intimidation to break brenda out of a police holding tank.
and i particularly love the final few pages as parker hitches a ride with a middle-aged truck-driving couple.
but i don't love any of these books the way i love the original sixteen pre-hiatus parker books. i suppose part of it's gotta do with the times. parker just ain't a man of the 90's or 00's, y'know? imagine don draper on the view? cary grant on twitter? naw, can't happen. so there's a part of me that was kinda hoping that the post-hiatus books would touch on exactly that: what happens to a 'man of his time' as time passes him by?
well, in a sense, stark answers the question by not answering it: some people change and others just wither up and blow away... but parker. parker does what he's always done: he proceeds as the lone-wolf, existential anti-hero regardless if the prez is JFK or bush, the drug is LSD or X, or the enemy is the USSR or al-qaeda. parker is always and only parker and i guess that's the point... but my gut tells me there's a bit of a missed opportunity here.
of course, the fault could lie in me. it's easy as hell to romanticize a time before one lived, all that bullshit hopped-up nostalgia is powerful stuff. consider this image of parker by darwyn cooke from his graphic novelization of the outfit:
yeah, the danish mid-century furniture is cooler than its contemporary equivalent, the miami beach setting out the window conjures thoughts of hyman roth and tiki cocktails as opposed to drunk-on-red-bull-and-grey-goose ed-hardy-wearing douchebags, the very design of the image itself carries the whiff of noir and mystery and the threat of violence, and maybe a chiseled sociopath with a gun is easier to swallow if i know he's part of an older era... but, ah... what the shit do i know? lemme stop trying to understand why i love this stuff and just love it. (yeah, well, we know i can't really ever do that...)
well, i've read 19 of these things. 5 more to go. what happens after that?...more
a small town in north dakota sits deep in a narrow valley. a single road the only way in or out. parker and eleven men head down at midnight and methoa small town in north dakota sits deep in a narrow valley. a single road the only way in or out. parker and eleven men head down at midnight and methodically take over the tiny police department then the fire department then the phone switchboard. once the town's defenses have been neutralized and communication is cut off from the outside world, the team knocks over the town's two banks, the jewelry store, and then robs the town's entire payroll. a heist to the extreme! forget one bank, one store, one person, one job... let's do an entire town in a single night! that's the score. and it's terrific. spare and cold and angry and intelligent -- and there are some good women in there, too: one trashy, one sweet, both willing to toss it all away for a life of adventure and crime and hard-as-rocks men.
fleshy asked, after my review of slayground, why, with such a rapturous review, did i only slap it with four stars? well, i think it is a 4 star book but the score might very well be a 5. but i'm still giving it 4. lemme explain.
charles ardai, in his introduction, writes:
"Reading the Parker novels is a little like watching a jazz musician at work. The performance begins with a familiar melody, the unadorned restatement of a theme, but then the performer cuts loose, interpreting, elaborating, inverting, transforming, improvising.
At a certain level of abstraction, of course, the Parker novels are all the same... and yet, Stark somehow manages to assemble these elements into a thoroughly new book. Bix Biederbecke famously said he never played a solo the same way twice, and neither did Stark. It may be the same song each time, but all the notes are different."
yup. stark works off a familiar template and it's great: he usually begins with the second act, as the action is already moving along, and then explains all we really need to know from the first act along the way. we then watch parker create and interact with his team, intellectually figure out how best to do 'the job', and then it all goes into effect and we watch parker improvise as shit falls apart and/or goes wrong.
now i believe the score to be, on one level, a perfect little crime book. but it definitely feels a part of something larger: as if this individual book is just one chapter in 'the life of parker' -- analogous to, say, updike's rabbit stories in which the individual novels might deserve 3 or 4 stars, but taken as a whole, it's an undeniable fiver. so, maybe i judge too harshly. maybe a five star book doesn't need to be a giant epic encompassing and totaling much more than the sum of its parts... who knows? who cares? i know parker wouldn't. he'd grunt and walk away.
in the hunter, parker warned the Outfit that if he were to instruct all his contacts to hit Outfit run businesses across the nation, they could put soin the hunter, parker warned the Outfit that if he were to instruct all his contacts to hit Outfit run businesses across the nation, they could put some serious hurting on the organization. it never comes to that. in this book it does. and it's glorious. not only do we track parker's moves against high-ranking members of the Outfit, but individual chapters are devoted to heists and jobs by various transient criminals directed at the Outfit. good stuff.
i've always loved stories which feature an interconnected underworld of criminals. bad guys, robbers, vampires, aliens, etc, who live amongst us and do what we do... up to a point. the sun goes down and they knock around empty train depots, greasy spoons, dive bars, pool-halls, city streets, etc. and do bad things. there's some great nerdy little metaphors for society wrapped up in all of this but also, in general, it reinforces the belief that ordinary day-by-day life has an underside, that there are aliens in the midst, that everything is not exactly as it should be. this comforts me. and this is parker's world, a world which rejects the mainstream and also rejects the mainstream criminal organization (the Outfit) -- parker lives his life by his own rules: most of the year spent at various resort hotels and spas and the other months in crappy anonymous motel rooms assembling a team and pulling off a heist. intersperse some dames and some booze and that's parker. it's sinister and scary and romantic and cool and i'm always a sucker for it.
but what this book is really about is going soft. it's about how, when those on the margins become too big powerful or prestigious, they're absorbed into the mainstream and go limp. and parker capitalizes on this: he understands that the Outfit might be thousands-strong with millions of dollars and unlimited political connections, but he also realizes that they're mired down in bureaucracy and red tape and have turned slow and soft. and if he hits 'em hard and fast enough, they have no means of recourse: he can slip into the night and there ain't a damn thing they can do about it. a b-story featuring parker's favorite crime buddy, handy mckay, shows how, after years of heists, he's piled up enough money so that he can realize his dream: to get outta the business and open a diner. and this worries parker: once a guy doesn't feel that urgency he, like the Outfit, gets soft and lazy and slow. not good.
and parker. parker ain't soft. anything but. check this out: as any good parkerphile knows, parker is celibate during the planning and doing phases of the 'job', but once it's done, he requires sex. lots of it. in the final pages of this book, as he's writing letters to his buddies that the Outift has given in to his demands and operations should cease, a plump whore from downstairs enters his room offering up a freebie. we like this woman and kinda want parker to do the deed. here's what we get:
"It would be a nice break from the letter-writing to toss this one once, a soft quickie on the clean sheets. But the blank cowlike face stopped him because he knew there was a blank bovine mind behind it. The first one after a job ought to be a good one, like Bett, not a pig from Scranton."
and i've gotta see this movie (robert duvall as the parker character! with robert ryan and joe don baker!):
to hell with y'all and all your crummy new years resolutions: 'lose weight, stop smoking, go vegetarian (<--although, that you should do!), be moreto hell with y'all and all your crummy new years resolutions: 'lose weight, stop smoking, go vegetarian (<--although, that you should do!), be more/less adventurous, etc...' boring. totally boring. my resolution: gonna read every one of richard stark's 'parker' novels this year. and they're all gonna be those lovely gorgeous knockout new U. of Chicago editions. y'know what... lemme throw a few more chips in the pot: i'm gonna read all the ones currently available - that's 15 of 'em - this month. and then in april, when they release the next nine, i'll pound through those. so i'll have two months in between to recuperate or go into withdrawal... we'll see what happens.
it doesn't always work out as planned, but i try and divide my life bilaterally: the one half is a blur of lost days, days of adventure, dementia, drunkenness, travel, etc.; the other half is leaving the house as infrequently as possible and consists mostly of sitting in my office subsisting on a diet of massive amounts of coffee, books, music, dog-cuddling, masturbation, writing, and crap television/movies. the end of january marks my 37th birthday and what better way to celebrate than to head back to nyc for a week and run around like a chicken with its head cut off revealing me, in truth, as some pathetic rapidly-approaching-middle-aged loser still chasing his childhood... so in the weeks running up to my birthday it's the 'quiet' side of the equation, which means headphones roaring with the likes of bitches brew, new tijuana moods, singles going steady, and live dead; the oaks (my local coffee spot); working on these two stupid stupid scripts; editing this stupid stupid film; golden-hour hikes with my doggie; and total immersion in the world of 'parker' -- a great world to inhabit assuming, of course, you don't end up on parker's bad side.
and why the parker books? well, because they're the best. i've been hearing this forever. boorman's point blank, his version of the hunter, is some kinda loopy, jagged masterpiece. God(ard) based made in the usa on the jugger. tosh is a massive fan. as is mike reynolds. so i finally hunkered down at the book store and read a few chapters of slayground and the deal was sealed. i raced home, blasted through the book in an afternoon, immediately went back to the store, grabbed the score, and finished it that night (even better than slayground!)
i'll prolly jot down a few sentences after each book so ain't gonna blow my wad just now on why stark is god and parker a greater creation than adam, eve, light, earth, and any and all of us. just this: so far as i can tell, stark's plots are totally nutso. dig slayground: parker and two men crash the armored truck they just hijacked, parker snatches the satchel of money, and he escapes into a closed-down (it's winter) amusement park with only one entrance and exit. a bottle narrative deluxe! as 20 men (gangsters and crooked cops) come in to get him, parker's gotta booby-trap the hell outta the place and we get all the good stuff: shoot-outs in the house of mirrors, guys getting trapped in carnival rides, money stashed on fake pirate ships, standing painfully still in house of wax displays, fist fights, stabbings, shootings, etc...
now y'all keep quiet about this guy. i've gotta finish these scripts, build up my cred, and convince some studio bitch to buy the rights to one of these books for me so i can show boorman and God(ard) how it's really done.