Monday, November 3, 2014

The Hunter by Richard Stark (1962): I'm Goin' Back to New York City, I Do Believe I've Had Enough

On a cross-country trip this past summer I lucked into finding a few Richard Stark reprints in good condition from Avon Books for only a couple bucks each, which is a steal since they often go for double-digit prices on Amazon and eBay if you can find them at all. The Hunter is the first in the Parker series and Avon began its republication with it in June 1984. I like them all a lot: the cheap photo-session setups with various criminal props, the armed and blow-dried '80s macho model in silhouette, the midnight-blue cityscape horizon beyond. Looks like my next collecting jag is fixed.

The novel itself is Parker standard and that's a good thing. Westlake's prose is clean and tight and expectedly brutal. Reading the way he treats his wife Lynn after she betrays him and leaves him for dead (during a backstory heist) after he practically walks to New York from California to track her down seems abusive and cruel today even considering... she left him for dead. But that's Parker. In fact he tracks down all the people who wronged him and goes after them ruled by his ruthless single-minded will. Laconic Parker effortlessly dispatches any and all who stand in his way whether they're the muscle or the boss. "In twenty-four hours you'll be dead! No lone man can buck the organization." "I'll be seeing you," Parker said.

This all might seem unbelievable but the writing is so simple and events move almost as if predestined you will believe. And if Parker doesn't kill you right away don't think you're safe. It's only that he needs more info from you so you're dead later rather than sooner. Then he took Mal's neck in his hands again, and this time he didn't let go till Mal stopped breathing.

Pocket Books, 1962. First edition paperback, really dig the outsized hands. It's how Parker does his work.  Stegman looked back at him. "I don't see no gun. I don't see no weapon." Parker held up his hands. "You see two of them."

Gold Medal, 1967. Retitled to coincide with the Lee Marvin/John Boorman flick (in which Parker is renamed Walker but I think that is fine). Terrific cover painting illustrating Parker's confrontation with his wife. "I was never a whore, Parker," she said. "You know that." "No. You sold my body instead."

Berkley Medallion, 1973. Serialized to look like men's adventure but done so out of order. Vivid image of Parker's wife's betrayal although it didn't exactly happen like pictured. I don't think a woman wears a man's shirt over bra and panties to an airport heist. His hand on the knob, she called his name. He turned around, questioning, irritated, when he saw the Police Positive in her hand... she pulled the trigger and a heavy punch in his stomach drove the breath and consciousness out of him.

You can't go wrong with Parker. You'd better not go wrong with Parker.

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