Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Stark Crimes!

I have somehow remained ignorant of Richard Stark's Parker novels most of my life. I never saw Lee Marvin in Point Blank (and still haven't), but I did catch Mel Gibson in Payback. The relentless foul humour and matter of fact violence was notable and I checked into it. Also I came across some Donald Westlake stories and discovered that he was also known by the name "Richard Stark" and that his Parker stories were considered hard-nosed classics. I wanted to get some, but alas found they were precious and at the time out of print.

They've since come back into print, but not at a very cheap price so I've held off. But I was intrigued when Darwyn Cooke adapted the first Parker novel The Hunter for IDW. It too was a bit pricey for my tastes, but then I found it at Half Price Books and brought it home.

I took it with me to an appointment yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Parker is a grim avenger and ruthless killer. But still, somehow, he has a air of nobility, of a code that despite its detached and ultra violent elevates him above a mere thug. If you judged him by his actions and not his intent, he'd be a murderer pure and simple, but knowing what makes him tick gives the narrative a compelling drive.

This is the story of Payback more or less, with just enough variations to keep me on my toes. Cooke tells his stories with economy and power. He catches that mid-20th century cool as well as any artist and that gives the story a sheen it needs. This is a winner, and if you can find it for the right price I recommend it.

I don't know if I'll read the next several adaptations by Cooke, but I don't rule it out.

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  1. I worked through a whole bunch of the novels, and some other westlake books too, through the auspices of our local library system. Thoroughly enjoyable books and his Dortmunder books, written as Westlake, are great too! Don't know what the libraries are like near you but worth checking out.

  2. Good notion. I might give it a try. Thanks.

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