A reader writes, apropos of my tribute to Donald Westlake:
I, too, sometimes wonder why I like the Parker books so much. I’ve been reading them for years–since the early ones first came out. Yet I almost never like books where the hero is a criminal, an assassin, etc. (One exception, besides the Parker books, is Brian Garfield’s Hopscotch.) A couple of points, though: I don’t think of the Parker books as “noir” fiction, if for no other reason than that he almost always wins. Also, one ingratiating quality of Parker is that he has no sense of humor. I find that quality funny. It comes up most when he is in the company of
other, “normal” criminals. Westlake, as Stark, wrote a series of novels about a criminal with a sense of humor, the Grofield novels, and they didn’t come off too well, though Grofield is a good character in the Parker novels. One of my favorite fictional characters, Horatio Hornblower, is also humorless (or, rather, he feels he must hide his sense of humor), and I find the parts of those books where that quality comes out to be funny, too.
What he said.
As it happens, I’m a great fan of Hopscotch, from which I drew one of my favorite almanac entries a couple of years ago (and received an appreciative e-mail from Brian Garfield shortly thereafter, much to my surprise).