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February 1, 2011

TT: A little taste

Earlier today I posted about the foreword that I'm writing for the University of Chicago Press' upcoming uniform-edition versions of Flashfire and Firebreak, two novels about Parker, the professional criminal, that were written by Donald E. Westlake under the pseudonym of Richard Stark. I sent the finished foreword off to Chicago this morning. Here are the last two paragraphs.

* * *

ripley.jpgWhen I first started reading about Parker, I thought of the words of Dostoevsky's Ivan Karamazov: "If you were to destroy in humanity the belief in its immortality, not only love but every vital force for the continuation of earthly life would at once dry up. Moreover, then nothing would be immoral any more, everything would be permitted, even cannibalism." Up to a point, that applies to Parker, a man to whom nothing but amateurishness is immoral. Even more to the point, though, is Liliana Cavani's 2002 film version of Ripley's Game, in which these words are put into the mouth of Tom Ripley, Patricia Highsmith's anti-hero: "I lack your conscience and when I was young that troubled me. It no longer does. I don't worry about being caught because I don't believe anyone is watching."

Like Ripley, who is a real sociopath, Parker has no conscience. Somehow, though, I doubt that has ever troubled him. I think he got up one morning, decided for reasons known only to himself that no one was watching except for the cops, and decided to act accordingly. Nor do I think there was anything dramatic about his decision, no Farewell remorse...evil be thou my good moment to stun the groundlings. And that's what makes Parker so interesting, so seductive, and so wholly unlike most of the rest of us: he just doesn't care, and never did.

Posted February 1, 2011 1:49 PM

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