Mixing up the reading with a return to hard-boiled crime fiction this week. Donald Westlake wrote a series of novels about Parker. Parker specializes in heists.
“When he sat down at his typewriter in 1962 and started writing The Hunter, using the name Richard Stark, Donald E. Westlake thought he was writing a standalone novel. When he got up from his typewriter and sent the manuscript off to his publisher at Pocket Books, he thought he’d written a standalone novel—Parker ended the book in the custody of the police.
It was only after his editor read the manuscript that things changed. He called Westlake and said, “If you let him escape, and you think you can write a couple of these every year, we’ve got a series.” With that, Parker was born. He would go on to star in twenty-four novels, the last one appearing in 2008, eight months before Donald Westlake died.”
Who is Parker?
“You’ve heard of the hero and the anti-hero…how about the non-hero? That’s how Parker, the main character in a series of novels by Richard Stark (AKA Donald E. Westlake) has been described. Parker is a thief, but he’s no charming cat burglar who playfully eludes the silly authorities. He’s a ruthless thug who does whatever it takes to get what he wants (usually money), and he doesn’t care about a living soul other than himself. Some of the things he does will be repellent (I hope) to readers. So why read the stuff? Because Stark is an excellent writer and the Parker books are exciting and thought-provoking. Like all great crime fiction, the Parker novels give readers not just the story of a crime, but also a detailed look at the inner workings of a fascinating and original character.”
Slayground is the 14th in the series. I picked it up because I read that is like Die Hard set in an amusement park. Slayground was published in 1971, first by Random House in hardback and then in paperback by Berkley in 1973. Slayground predates Roderick Thorp’s Nothing Last Forever, the novel that became Die Hard, by eight years.
A heist of an armored car goes wrong when the driver of the get away car loses control in snowy condition and crashes the car. The driver is dead, Parker’s sometimes partner, Grofeld is unconscious. Parker skedaddles the money ($70,000). He takes refuge in a closed amusement park. A problem though- some Mafia types saw him enter the park and decide to take the money. The novel is then a manhunt of the local Mafia family and some crooked cops after Parker. Parker loses his gun in a fight. The local Mafia Don is out to get Parker when he kills his second in command. Parker uses various methods to thin out the numbers against him. Donaldwestlake.com has a body count of eight.
This novel is 182 pages in trade paperback. It was nice to knock off a book in one weekend. I liked this one better than some of the earlier Parker novels. I may read the rest in this sequence of: Deadly Edge, Plunder Squad, and Butcher’s Moon.