By Richard Stark
Parker, professional thief has just ripped off an armored car. During the getaway, his vehicle crashes. With the cops bearing down, he flees into an amusement park, closed during the winter, where he finds there is only one exit. Said escape route is now guarded by members of the local mob and their paid off cops who all witnessed Parker’s actions and soon learn about the robbery. It’s thief versus the mob in funland.
A different Parker novel. Usually, Stark writes about a different job for Parker to accomplish, lays out the details, the problems and the relationships with other team members. Then you see the operation play out. In Slayground, the job is complete and in its aftermath Parker has to fend for himself. This time, it’s how Parker can effect his escape and still keep the money.
Parker: professional thief, has a girlfriend, wife dead
Caliato: 38, member of the local mob, patient nature, smokes cigars
Donald Snyder:64, watchmen for Fun Island amusement park, drives a Volkswagon, stocky, owns a Colt .44 revolver
Parker is intelligent and tries to anticipate difficulties. I really get into his head, start empathizing with the character. If the reader can get drawn in, then the character is well written. Normally, the other characters are other members of Parker’s latest team.
Basic. No fluff. Parker doesn’t waste words. In fact, Parker does very little talking. Most of the conversations are by the mobsters and bad cops. And they’re pretty distinctive voices.
Book separated into Parts. The writing is basic. No nonsense. No details sensationalized. It’s business through the eyes of Parker. Action is laid out step by step. Some profanity. This was written in the era of pulp fiction popularity but doesn’t use that type of language. Of course this is the serious side of Richard Stark, aka Donald Westlake. Parker is the serious professional thief whereas John Dortmunder is the humorous. I’ve read other Parker novels and what fascinates me is the amount of research Stark had to have done. If you’ve read any of his books, think about first, the job, then the preparations for the job, then the possible problems (which always happen). The devil-and the delight-is in the details and they’re laid out one by one. Of course, you’re rooting for a bad guy, but that’s okay, because it’s the anti-hero type of story. Parker is a thief and for him, it’s like anybody else doing CPA work, or construction, or waiting tables. In all of Parker’s stories, you’re reading to see how he defeats not only the cops (which are almost nuisances) but other obstacles (usually other bad guys). Very little, if any humor, very dry at best. Smart writing. On the cover I’ve shown, is a quote by Elmore Leonard. “Whatever Stark writes, I read.” I think that says it all. He tends to show some action then go back and explain how characters came to be doing that action.
Westlake died a couple of years ago and the world will miss him. I’m trying to collect and read all of his books. I haven’t once been disappointed.