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Monday, 26 April 2010

THE OUTFIT BY RICHARD STARK

Historical data:
Originally published 1963
This edition Chicago University Press
cover price $14.00
As by Richard Stark AKA the late Donald Westlake

This is the third in the Parker series and although I enjoyed the previous book, The Man with the Getaway Face, this third volume is much more in the style of the debut Parker novel, The Hunter. Indeed the first three Parker books are something of a trilogy.

When we left Parker he'd had a facelift, robbed an armoured car, wasted the bird who fingered the robbery and avenged the death of his plastic surgeon. And all in the usual bizarrely humorous Parker style. This third books starts with Parker still getting trouble from the outfit - word on his new face is out and having to constantly look over his shoulder is making it difficult to operate.

Parker's fed up of running and he decides to become such a thorn in the outfit's side they they lay off him. Another relentlessly paced thriller follows with Parker coming across as brutally nasty and yet compelling as ever. Even with the author's minimalist style the book is highly coloured and the network of professional thieves Parker mobilises to hit at the Outfit are as well organised as any covert governmental department.

The Parker books are true classics - perhaps a little too brutal and morally ambiguous for the mainstream, but I have no doubt that the Parker books will one day be up there with the classics of noir. Or,as the French call them, Roman noir - the term roman noir (“black novel") was employed to describe a range of books, some that an English speaker might think of as mysteries, others as gothic melodramas.


On a personal level I'm still a newcomer to the books - I've done the first three as well as several of the later Parker books and I've enjoyed each and every one. Though Parker does seem to become a slightly mellower character in the later adventures and, although still worth reading, it is these early books that are the real deal.

The world Parker in which operates is a very real world that exists in parallel with the commonplace and Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) knows this world very well.

These are excellent books and my favourite series at the moment.

4 comments:

john.sinclair1 said...

Synchronicity central again....just read this a few weeks ago - the Cardiff Central Library has it.
Phenomenal!
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Parker-Hunter-Richard-Starks/dp/1600104932
Darwyn Cooke is the man behind a few Jonah Hex's and the Spirit relaunch a year or so back. he also created the New Frontier graphic novel series that was turned into possibly the best animated superhero movie ever last year.
His version of Parker is spot on.
Go get it. Now.
You won't be disapointed.

john.sinclair1 said...

BTW: Mr Simon Templar fan... did you notice who played Alistair (the smoothie in the tux who tried to off River Song in the corridor? (or was it in the library with the candlesticks? Whatever) in the latest Dr Who?
It was the actor Simon Dutton and he played the Saint in a few tv movies in the late 80s. Good, but slightly obscure actor....

ARCHAVIST said...

Yeah but I'd forgotten Dutton's lame saint

john.sinclair1 said...

Sheesh! Completely forgot I'd spoken to you in December about the Parker graphic novels! 'embarassed'
Looking forward to the third one though.