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Firebreak (Parker Novels) Paperback – November 1, 2002

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Paperback, November 1, 2002
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Product Details

  • Series: Parker Novels
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press (November 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446678244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446678247
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,222,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Penzler Pick, December 2001: You'd have to hammer apart an armored tank to find a surface harder than that of Richard Stark's antihero Parker. A thief and a killer, Parker is the protagonist of a contemporary series that has the legendary status of vintage noir. The films Point Blank (with Lee Marvin) and Payback (with Mel Gibson) were both made from the first Parker novel, The Hunter. After an absence from print of over two decades, Parker began breaking all the commandments again in 1997's Comeback.

However, since Stark is, as the dust jacket informs readers, also at times the mystery Grand Master Donald E. Westlake, there's a curious phenomenon worth noting in the pages of this, the 21st Parker novel. Larry Lloyd, a crook by virtue of his (bad) temper if not his temperament, seems to be a second-banana character who's strolled out of a Westlake comic caper into a Stark scenario and can't quite figure out what he's doing here. Practically a textbook definition of a loose cannon, he comes on board the team planning to rob a billionaire techno-geek's remote mountain hideaway because of his own electronics expertise. OK, so he has a violent streak and is willing to put a bullet through a guy's eyeball, but he's still more Walter Mitty than James Cagney.

As he's about to help get the heist back on track at the last minute, Parker asks him if he thinks he's 007. "Are you kidding?" he says. "The last few weeks, I've been scaling cliffs, shooting people, getting rid of bodies, stealing ambulances, I am James Bond."

Since this comes from the hugely fertile mind of Westlake/Stark, this is not the story's only plotline. There is another, more twisty one running on a track parallel to the one with Parker and his robbery-minded pals on it. Revenge may be a dish best eaten cold, but when it's a matter of kill or be killed, Parker is not likely to be one of the leftovers.

Sometimes, a series loses some of its freshness and originality after it reaches a certain number. Amazingly, after 39 years and 21 books, this novel is as good as any in the series, which should be taken as the highest praise it's possible to give without seeming to be sycophantic. --Otto Penzler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Parker and crew have their eyes on the contents of a secret vault in a billionaire's hunting lodge in this typically taut thriller written by Donald E. Westlake under his nom de noir, but first the tough antihero must deal, roughly, with some people trying to whack him. A Russian hit man provides the overture action as Parker attracts the attention of enemies from the past and meets the killer mercilessly. Parker spends much of the rest of the book seeking out the source of the contract, gradually learning that his current job has brought his name and whereabouts to the surface. The job is one his old partners, Elkins and Wiss, have put on the table: a stash of paintings by Old Masters stolen from museums around the world and kept in dot-com mogul Paxton Marino's Montana lodge for his personal pleasure. To get past Marino's sophisticated electronic safeguards, they need help from a computer-nerd-gone-bad, really bad, named Lloyd. The author delivers this novel with the economy of a 1950s paperback original ("Twelve thousand dollars in twenties and fifties was rolled into an orange juice concentrate can in the freezer"), but slips in enough plot twists and surprises to satisfy the most modern audience (no heist ever written by Stark/Westlake comes off without lots of hitches). That Parker, on general principles, doesn't bump off Lloyd at first sight almost seems like a sign of weakness, but it's the only one in this deliciously nasty read. (Nov. 14)Forecast: Coming on the heels of Flashfire (2000), the last Parker novel, this one promises to be just as big a hit for MWA Grand Master and three-time Edgar-winner Westlake.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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So I'm working my way through them, trusting there will be more soon.
If I had a criticism of Firebreak, it would be that, at times, the characters are a little too talkative, and their conversations can be a little too neat.
Matt Hetling
After I was given a Kindle I re-read two of them and they were as good a story today and they were then.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By P. Falina on November 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
When asked why he had ceased writing Parker novels after "Butcher's Moon", Donald E. Westlake was quoted as saying he had "lost the voice." Since the publication of "Comeback", Westlake/Stark has been steadily, if somewhat unevenly, getting the voice back. I personally feel he has triumphantly returned to full strength in "Firebreak".
"Firebreak", for me, represents the best of Parker. There's a job to be done, but there are also problems, first distinct from the job, then directly concerned with the job. This latest novel presents some of the longest-distance action since "The Sour Lemon Score", and, in fact, revisits three characters from that story. Plus, Elkins and Wiss, the "specialty promotions" guys from previous books and fond memory are back. PLUS: check me on this, but "Firebreak" may just be the first mention of the web in the Stark repetoire.
If you're a Parker fan, and particularly if you have resisted returning to the fold (OK, yes, in the beginning I thought the revived series was strictly to make bucks off the Mel Gibson PAYBACK), then it's time to check in.
Just one egregious mistake by Stark. Keep in mind, Parker is the guy, in "The Rare Coin Score", who had to ask Claire what year a Roman numeral represented ("I'm no good with that stuff"). Indeed, in this very book, Parker frowns at the abbreviation PR. And yet, on pages 32 and 51, Parker correctly identifies Cyrillic letters (the writing on the note he found on page 28). Richard, we love you, but, BE CAREFUL!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on November 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Parker has two jobs both critical to his well being. One is more along the line of his normal work. Parker is employed to steal stolen art treasures stored in a remote area of Montana. The "owner" Paxton Marino is a computer whiz billionaire so Parker knows he can expect anything and needs an electronic expert along for the ride.

The other job is a bit more personal. Someone hired a pro to kill Parker. He needs to know who and why so he can concentrate on the art theft. The problem is over the years in his line of work Parker has made many enemies who would gladly urinate on his grave. As Parker makes inquiries through his underground connections, he soon realizes the art job resurfaced his name to some nasty people who simply detest him. Still Big Sky is calling and with the help of an electronic genius lunatic, Parker goes to work on purloining the art treasures.

FIREBREAK is the typical Parker tale as the exciting story line is loaded with twists and turns yet the stark plot uses no unnecessary baggage. The tale belongs to Parker who seems relatively mellow compared to his maniacal sidekick (why trust this psychopath is beyond this reviewer). Still, this wild ride across the Northern Plains is an effective anti-hero thriller that proves Richard Stark under that name or as Donald Westlake can still be counted on for top-notch modern day noir.

Harriet Klausner
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. M. Sulkin on December 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Parker series from Richard Stark (the pseudonym of Donald E. Westlake) is the flip side from the author's comedic Dortmunder series. Parker is tough, no nonsense, and kills when necessary. His latest job teams him up with a gang of crooks looking to resteal some masterpiece paintings from a nouveau riche com-type billionaire who is less than honest. The paintings are secreted in a hidden location in the billionaire's luxurious hunting lodge. This book follows a familiar Parker plot outline: the crooks get together to plan a heist; Parker gets involved in some side business; plans go awry; things get improvised. In this book Parker's side business builds to a climax, but then ends too quickly. The final heist sequence packs suspense and action.
One reads a Parker book knowing that one cuts straight to the action, with little of the fat and detours found in too many crime books these days. Parker is not someone you would want to meet in a dark alley, but you do enjoy reading about.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David Montgomery VINE VOICE on November 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man." From the opening line of this sly, nihilist novel, Richard Stark takes the reader on another 50 cent tour through the grit and grime that make up the world of professional thief Parker. Hired assassins, mob enforcers, elaborate heists, and double crosses are the meat and potatoes of the hard-boiled genre and Stark has served up another feast with "Firebreak."
The books in the Parker series (this is number twenty-four!) are not profound or deep, nor are they meant to be. They are quick and intense reads, filled with a focused, manic energy. Nearly every one of them has been a winner and "Firebreak" is no exception.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James N Simpson on March 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Parker narrowly escapes a Russian hit man who came to the cabin he shares with Claire. In the midst of disposal of the body he is contacted about a potential job with huge rewards involving stolen paintings in an isolated Montana mansion. The time frame on the Montana job is very tight so Parker has no time to put closure into those who put the price on his head. Of course they aren't prepared to wait.

As well as other Parker adventures written as Richard Stark also check out under Westlake's own name his masterpiece solution to being unemployed, The Ax. His novels Corkscrew and the Scared Stiff are also brilliant!

I would also recommend James Pattinson (Pattinson not Patterson), a British author who writes very similar style novels which are also short chaptered and simple but enjoyable reads for those who have read everything Westlake has written so far but want more of this sort of reading. Feast of the Scorpion, Wild Justice, A Car for Mr Bradley, The Time of Your Life, Homecoming The Animal Gang and Crane all have criminal characters very similar to Stark's Parker character. Check them out.
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