Monday, July 7, 2008

More Life Support from Richard Stark

I just read Dirty Money, the new Parker book by Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake). At some point when I was taking a greater interest in crime fiction -- and involuntarily drifting away from academia -- I happened upon my first Parker book (which was not the first in the series). At that time, Westlake had taken about a 20-year hiatus from writing about Parker. Then, over a couple years, I read all the Parker books, every last one (about 16). Some I ordered online (in early e-commerce days), and a few I got by interlibrary loan. Parker is a heister, and I just couldn't get enough of watching him plan and carry out heists, and clean up afterwards. It was a sad day when I read the last one (Butcher's Moon, I think). Then in 1997, Westlake brought Stark and Parker back with Comeback, and I've read them all as they've come out.

There have been eight books in phase 2, all of them good, and some of them really good. I thought Parker was disappearing again a couple books back (Nobody Runs Forever), but Parker got back on track (as Westlake has said, everything eventually goes right for Parker -- he finds a parking space when he needs it -- whereas everything always goes wrong for Dortmunder, Westlake's comic heister). Dirty Money is the third book of an impromptu trilogy. Parker is still mopping up and getting out of the mess created in Nobody Runs Forever. Without quite a fresh heist -- and no amateur characters (a misanthrope plays a great part in the second of this trilogy, Ask the Parrot) -- Dirty Money lacks just a little bit of freshness and grounding. That's a very small complaint. Read this book, but if you haven't read other Parker books, maybe start with another. Eventually, I'll write here again about Westlake.

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