RARA-AVIS: If you like that, then . . .

From: Mark Sullivan ( DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net)
Date: 28 Jul 2000

Bill wrote:

"If anyone wants to take a writer X or book Y and suggest, with reasons, a handful of writers or books to try if you liked X or Y, we could make up a list that would probably be handy for us and newcomers to the field. Heck, we could identify some salient elements of hardboileditude and pick the five books that best represent each aspect."

Okay, since Bill wrote this in response to an email from me, I'll start:

If you like Richard Stark's Parker series . . .

I've said it before, I'll say it again: I'm a sucker for a good caper book. Some of the best of them, in my opinion, are entries in Richard Stark's Parker series.

The real joy of these tight novels is the planning and execution of the jobs. Westlake once said that after having written a few of the Parker books, he realized they were about "work." The books offer the thrill of watching a team of master craftsmen at the top of their game. Well, at least until they are sabotaged by unprofessional, personal concerns. The capers always go sour, somehow, either because of a double-crossing partner or due to someone letting their personal life impede upon their professional life.

However, with very few exceptions, Parker is a consummate professional. He would never double-cross his partners, not due to any loyalty or morals, but due to professionalism. As a matter of fact, Parker is entirely amoral. There are several times in the series where he must decide whether or not to kill someone. Parker never even considers questions of right and wrong, but on the action's cost effectiveness, pure situational ethics. Will the killing further his ends or will it bring him even more trouble? And Parker pays for those very few times he shows pity; in almost every case, the spared comes back to get him and Parker regrets not having killed him/her when he had the chance.

Okay, if you like these books, I'd also recommend:

The Name of the Game is Death and The Endless Hour by Dan J. Marlowe -- Earl Drake almost makes Parker seem nice, although part of that is because Parker's cold professionalism is replaced with a burning rage. Getting even is not a business decision for Drake, it's a way of life.

Four For The Money by Dan J. Marlowe -- a one-off caper book about a crew of ex-cons who team up for an armored car heist.

The Wyatt series by Garry Disher -- simply the Parker series updated and transplanted to Australia. As with the recent Parker books, the hardest part of the job is often finding a target with enough cash vs. credit card receipts. Also like the recent Parkers, the older professional is dismayed by the drop in craft as junkies on smash and grabs give thieves a bad name.

Max Allan Collins also did a professional criminal series featuring Nolan. I enjoy these, but Nolan's younger partner goes even further in lightening the books than Grofield does in later Parkers. So I'm not quite sure they fit with these others.

White Merc With Fins by James Hawes -- also a bit too humorous to fit with Parker, but good fun with a nice caper at its core as a group of British young plan and commit the "one caper and I'm set for life." Good suspenseful fun in a kind of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels kind of way.


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