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May 26, 2008

TT: Honoris causa

As regular readers of this blog know, I'm a great fan of the crime novels that Donald E. Westlake publishes under the transparent pseudonym of "Richard Stark," in which he chronicles the capers of a hard-nosed professional burglar known only as Parker who is widely thought to look quite a bit like Lee Marvin:

In addition to choosing Dirty Money, Stark's latest, as a Top Five pick, I reviewed it admiringly and at greater length here. In that piece I pointed out that most of the early Parker novels are out of print, and that many of them fetch alarmingly high prices on the used-book market.

hunter63.jpgSo it was with great interest that I learned the other day that the University of Chicago Press will be reprinting the first three Parker novels on September 15. The Hunter, The Man With the Getaway Face, and The Outfit will be followed in chronological order by the next thirteen Parker novels, ending with Butcher's Moon, originally published in 1974. Parker went on a twenty-three-year-long vacation after Butcher's Moon, returning in 1997 with Comeback. (The post-Comeback novels are all in print.) Says the press release:

You probably haven't ever noticed them. But they've noticed you. They notice everything. That's their job. Sitting quietly in a nondescript car outside a bank making note of the tellers' work habits, the positions of the security guards. Lagging a few car lengths behind the Brinks truck on its daily rounds. Surreptitiously jiggling the handle of an unmarked service door at the racetrack.

They're thieves. Heisters, to be precise. They're pros, and Parker is far and away the best of them. If you're planning a job, you want him in. Tough, smart, hardworking, and relentlessly focused on his trade, he is the heister's heister, the robber's robber, the heavy's heavy. You don't want to cross him, and you don't want to get in his way, because he'll stop at nothing to get what he's after.

Parker, the ruthless antihero of Richard Stark's eponymous mystery novels, is one of the most unforgettable characters in hardboiled noir. Lauded by critics for his taut realism, unapologetic amorality, and razor-sharp prose-style--and adored by fans who turn each intoxicating page with increasing urgency--Stark is a master of crime writing, his books as influential as any in the genre. The University of Chicago Press has embarked on a project to return the early volumes of this series to print for a new generation of readers to discover--and become addicted to.

Nicely put.

Amazon is now taking advance orders for The Hunter, The Man With the Getaway Face, and The Outfit. You know what to do. After you've done it, go here to read the first lines of all twenty-four Parker novels. This one is my favorite: "When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man."

You can't get down to business much faster than that.

Posted May 26, 2008 12:00 AM

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