Matthew's Reviews > The Outfit

The Outfit by Richard Stark
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's review
Feb 01, 2011

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Read in February, 2011

Single minded. Parker is a single minded and unsettling creation. God forbid you cross a man like him. Parker has the leanness. No friends, no possessions, no wife, no home. Just a routine of laying low in resort towns before the next score, and relentless, methodical pursuit of those that do him wrong. Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake) starts this novel, like the previous Parker novels, in the thick of the action. A woman screams just before a hired killer is about to pull the trigger on Parker while he sleeps... and we're off! Parker warned the syndicate in The Hunter that he'd do some damage if they came after him and he makes good on that promise. He sends letters to dozens of professional thieves waiting for an excuse to take advantage of a mob that's gone soft and complacent over the years, filled with working stiffs instead of hardened criminals. Each chapter outline a new heist, doubling back at the end to catch up with Parker before he deals with Bronson, the angry and much maligned head of the Outfit. It's Parker's single mindedness that makes this structure necessary, he's too focused, efficient, and direct to spend an entire novel inside his head. There's a great scene where Bronson and his neglected wife play cards to kill time while Bronson hides out in his upstate New York mansion. It's made clear that they rarely spend time together, yet love and sort of respect one another - a short and strange inside view of a gangster's marriage. The heists are interesting and filled with ephemeral details of the 1960's underground: how bookies layoff bets, how narcotics were purchased pre-aviation security, how to plot a perfect escape route (no one will suspect a souped up Volkswagon). The problem with the book is it lacks a real sense of danger other than the opening scene where Parker deals with the shooter as well as the masochistic woman he's bedded with at the time. How do you get to a man, who lives only for himself? There's a brief chink in Parker's armor when he comes to the realization that this is the first time he's ever done a job for anything, but the money... it makes him nervous. The Outfit is not my favorite so far, but I'll certainly continue reading Richard Stark's economical prose to find out how Parker evolves over time.

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