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Backflash: A Parker Novel (Parker Novels) Paperback – April 15, 2011

24 customer reviews
Book 18 of 24 in the Parker Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

A large part of the pleasure of having Richard Stark back writing about the master criminal Parker is the obvious delight that Stark (a pen name for Donald Westlake) takes in doing the research for his capers. This one must have been a blast. Certainly, he must have spent time on board a cruise ship to get all the inside details for Parker's planned robbery of a fictional floating casino called the Spirit of the Hudson--details such as how to get the cash off (inside a wheelchair's converted potty seat) or how to make use of a hard-shelled female publicist.

Then there must have been a tour of old towns along the Hudson, to come up with this letter-perfect description of a seedy saloon: "It was called the Lido, but it shouldn't have been. It was an old bar, a gray wood cube cut deep into the ground floor of a narrow 19th Century brick house, and at two on a sunny afternoon in April it was dark and dry, smelling of old whiskey and dead wood.... At the bar, muttering together about sports and politics--other people's victories and defeats--were nine or ten shabbily dressed guys who were older than their teeth."

After Comeback (Parker's triumphant return to action after a 20-year hiatus), readers know that all the best planning in the world can't account for fate or human weakness. This time, a weirdly motivated retired civil servant, an out-of-control smalltown cop, and some greedy bikers stand in the way of Parker and Co.'s successful removal of $400,000 from the gambling boat. Stark is too gifted an artist to make their intervention trivial, and also too talented an entertainer to leave his old and new Parker fans unsatisfied with the outcome. --Dick Adler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Stark is, of course, a pen name used by Donald E. Westlake, and Parker is his very tough protagonist?last seen, after a 20-year absence, in Comeback (1997). Parker is a hard-nosed crook indeed, quite unlike the giddy opportunists who often brighten Westlake's lighter tales. He is serious about his business, and anyone who tries to cross him?as several people do in this dark tale of piracy on the Hudson River?is likely to end up perforated. Parker's game plan this time is to rob a floating casino being tried out on the Albany-Poughkeepsie run in upstate New York. His informant is odd (an apparently upright state pol turning to crime in his old age), but Parker goes ahead anyway and puts together a gang with an ingenious plan to smuggle guns aboard the high-security boat and get the money off it. It seems to work, but more people know about his scheme than Parker could ever have realized, and at the end there's a great deal of bloody cleaning up to do. Stark's narration is deadpan tough, full of hard, realistic detail about places and people and with just enough salty dialogue to move things along briskly ("'We live and learn, Ray,' Parker said, and shot him"). No need to lament a golden age of hard-boiled writing; it's right here, now.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Parker Novels
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (April 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226770605
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226770604
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #645,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Patrick McCormack VINE VOICE on February 2, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book starts with a bang, moves through a mystery to a heist, and then deals with problems, clean up, and near disaster. Along the way, we see the incredibly detailed story of exactly how a gambling ship might be ripped off. We watch Parker, the hero of this series of books, as he plans, executes, and then cleans up little messes. These stories are very fun to read, combining well researched detail with a fast pace.
In this book, there is one character that stands out -- the retired state employee, disgruntled, unhappy, who leads Parker to the gambling ship. I work in state government. I have met this guy. He rings entirely true. His inclusion in the story makes the logic of the caper work, adds intrigue, and allows the author to create the sort of character seldom seen in fiction -- an interesting functionary. These books are good fun.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lev Raphael on August 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
In Richard Stark's dark new caper, the state of New York is experimenting with riverboat gambling. A floating casino's being tested for four months on the Hudson River to see how much money it brings in, and it's all going to be cash during the trial run.
Enter master criminal Parker, who's approached by an anti-gambling former state employee with a proposal to rob the boat. Something about this guy troubles Parker, but he goes ahead anyway, assembling a crack team of specialists to plan a beautifully ingenious raid.
Parker's motto in heists is "to try to control events" but he knows all too well that "they'll still get away from you anyway." Of course that's exactly what happens here, when the scent of all that money attracts other crooks with plans of their own and Parker has to clean up the mess.
Stark is the pseudonym of acclaimed mystery master Donald Westlake, author of last year's stunning The Ax, and his expert touch is evident in every part of this tense, tough and enthralling book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Having read a few Parker novels back in junior high (nearly 25 years ago), I can recall loving the character for his cold-eyed pragmatism and his ability to deliver a quick dose of shocking violence as needed to protect his interests. Upon hearing of Stark/Westlake's intention of resurrecting the character, I feared that the author would be tempted to "update" him, ie, start having him deliver wisecracks, worry about his relationship with his girlfriend, etc. Fortunately for us, Parker can clearly thrive in today's high-tech world and even pulls off driving a Lexus, now that those old American "hardtops" are gone. Comeback was great and Backflash is even better. The thoughts of every character in the book focus exclusively on their own pleasure and gain. Alas, just when you think Parker may have made a few mistakes this time out, he does not disappoint when it comes time to settle things in his usual ruthlessly efficient style.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The Ersatz Economist on July 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Parker novels are straightforward heist novels where the plan always goes wrong and the experience and sharpness of Parker save the day. One of the strengths of this novel is that the heist involves a large crew composed of many interesting and equally talented theives, though Parker is the sharpest and hardest of them all. This novel's heist is particularly difficult and the chapters involving the heist are especially well written and deliciously describe the reactions and thoughts of the marks that are being robbed. A quick, rough subplot involving one of Parker's mistakes helps close this dark novel and cleary demonstrate just how hard and unforgiving Parker really is. It was a great close to a clever heist.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By the gunner VINE VOICE on November 1, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

I think I read my first Parker book sometime in the 1970's. Parker is a realistic seeming criminal who robs for a living written by Donald Westlake writing as Richard Stark. In Backflash, Parker is brought into a caper by a New York State beaurocrat who is against gambling. There is going to be a trial period where river boat gambling is allowed on the Hudson River so the Spirit of Biloxi is recommissioned the Spirit of the Hudson and it sails to the Hudson River where Parker and crew awaits all that cash.

As usual just because you think the action is all over Stark puts in a twist. That's all the hint I'm going to give to the ending.

As far as I can tell the other Parker books are:
1) The Hunter (1963; AKA Point Blank, Payback; Parker, by Richard Stark).
2) The Man With the Getaway Face (1963; AKA The Steel Hit; Parker,
3) The Outfit (1963; Parker, by Richard Stark)
4) The Mourner (1963; Parker, by Richard Stark)
5) The Score (1964; AKA Killtown; Parker, by Richard Stark)
6) The Jugger (1965; Parker, by Richard Stark)
7) The Seventh (1966; AKA The Split; Parker, by Richard Stark)
8) The Handle (1966; AKA Run Lethal; Parker, by Richard Stark)
9) The Rare Coin Score (1967; Parker, by Richard Stark)
10) The Green Eagle Score (1967; Parker, by Richard Stark)
11) The Black Ice Score (1968; Parker, by Richard Stark)
12) The Sour Lemon Score (1969; Parker, by Richard Stark)
13) Slayground (1971; Parker, by Richard Stark)
14) Deadly Edge (1971; Parker, by Richard Stark)
15) Plunder Squad (1972; Parker, by Richard Stark)
16) Butcher's Moon (1974; Parker, by Richard Stark)
17) Comeback (1997;
18) Backflash (1998; Parker)..
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