Between 1963 and 1974, Donald Westlake wrote 16 “Parker” books under the pen name “Richard Stark.” If you saw the movie “Payback,” with Mel Gibson–well, that was basically the first book in the series. It’s really an incredibly fun series about a tough-guy thief. Each book involves a big heist of some kind.
After 23 years, Westlake resumed the series in 1997. He wrote 8 more Parker books before he died in 2008. Westlake had a little extra fun with these books. The titles of the first five were compound words, and each title used one word from the previous book: Comeback, Backflash, Flashfire, Firebreak, Breakout. I guess he tired of that after five books, and went back to titles with no particular pattern.
Something else he did in those latter 8 books: the opening lines all begin with “When.” I just finished “Flashfire,” which had the best opening:
“When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man.” (Flashfire)
Here are a couple other opening lines:
“When the car stopped rolling, Parker kicked out the rest of the windshield and crawled through onto the wrinkled hood, Glock first.” (Backflash)
“When he saw that the one called Harbin was wearing a wire, Parker said, ‘Deal me out a hand,’ and got to his feet.” (Nobody Runs Forever)
“When the helicopter swept northward and lifted out of sight over the top of the hill, Parker stepped away from the tree he’d waited beside and continued his climb.” (Ask the Parrot)
There are 24 books in the Parker series; I’ve now read 20 of them. I love these books, and can see myself reading them again.Leave a comment