Re: RARA-AVIS: Philosophize This ("The Morals Of Parker")

From: Jesse Willis (
Date: 03 Sep 2005

--- William Denton <> wrote:
> Where this puts, say, Stark's Parker books, I don't
> know. Certainly
> everyone can learn from his professionalism. It's
> just too bad that he's
> a soulless professional thief and killer. He's
> stoic, but he's no Stoic.

With regards to Parker's philosophy, I posted the following on the violentworldofparker Yahoo!Group back in 2004:

...just got the fanzine I mentioned earlier in the week. For those interested in finding a copy of their own (good luck) the full title of it is "The Mystery Fancier March/April 1984". The zine's editor is listed as "steven a. stilwell" and the article is entitled "The Morals Of Parker" by Frank D. McSherry Jr. Unfortuantely I won't be able reprint the article here since I haven't been able to contact either McSherry's estate (he's deceased) or Steven Stilwell for copyright clearance. What I will do is give you a brief synopsis of the artcile.

McSherry cites from the following Parker novels: The Score, The Handle, Deadly Edge, The Mourner, The Rare Coin Score and The Mourner. He also cites an interview found in "Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine - Novemeber 1976". His essay starts off showing examples of what appear to be amoral behavior (Parker killing innocent or relatively innocent people), then he shows some examples of what may be holes in the theory that Parker is amoral. He cites loyalty towards Grofield, Claire and a couple other examples. McSherry suggests that Parker does have morality, and that its just hard to spot because we don't have the right lens. If we see Parker as a military man or a soldier and his "jobs" as "missions" then loyalty is part of the job of a soldier to his brothers in arms. Myself, I think McSherry has an interesting take on Parker's morality. The only real difference between a loyal and skilled soldier at war and Parker is that the country Parker is fighting for has only one citizen, Parker.

My thoughts on the subject of Parker's morality: McSherry might be saying Parker is what philosopher David Gauthier would call "a constrained maximizer" - that is someone who does what is necessary to maximize his goals in a world where reputation matters. Myself, I think that Parker does have a moral code, and that it does include loyalty as a matter of the wisest path. Parker has to work with criminals (he rarely does any job alone) and getting a reputation as either a backstabber or as soft-touch is abhorrent to the goal of leading a long and properous career as a heister. But I think for Parker the money isn't actually the the motivating factor as much as it is his way of keeping score for himself. If he makes out like a bandit he is satisfied, for a time, but the money itself isnt the goal. Remember, Parker has NEVER in all the books mentioned that he wanted to make "one big score", like so many of his fellow thieves have. For parker, like for us readers, the activity, the work, the heist is the interesting part.

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