Monday, June 19, 2006

Because Donald Westlake's Coming to Vermont

The most curious pen name that Donald Westlake uses, to my mind, is Richard Stark. Did he intend to have the name echo the voice? This is a reportorial storyteller who outlines "stark facts," and who doesn't add any frills to the plot -- not even (oh famous detail!) the first name of the character, labeled only as "Parker." Yes, I've been reading Richard Stark, this time The Outfit, 1963 (reprinted by Mysterious Press, 1998).
The Outfit has got to be the ultimate “caper” book. Parker, annoyed that a crime syndicate known as The Outfit won’t settle financially with him in a fair way, arranges for the Big Guys to feel his pain. Except, as I said, it’s a caper book – and pain, suffering, frustration, they’re all pretty abstract and absent, really. All that matters is how each puzzle piece of confronting the organized group comes to life and fits into the next one. Men get shot dead; women more or less dodge the bullets; and Parker, with a grinning friend or three, gets his way. Read this one when you’re sick of complications. You can ride with the plot, like an extra rider in the caper car, and despite the grim tone to the tale, get a dose of entertaining satisfaction from the way it wraps up. One more reason for reading this one: It's the entry into Westlake's film career. More on that later.

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