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The Handle: A Parker Novel (Parker Novels) Paperback – August 15, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


“Parker is refreshingly amoral, a thief who always gets away with the swag.”
(Stephen King Entertainment Weekly)

“Parker . . . lumbers through the pages of Richard Stark’s noir novels scattering dead bodies like peanut shells. . . . In a complex world [he] makes things simple.”
(William Grimes New York Times)

“Whatever Stark writes, I read. He’s a stylist, a pro, and I thoroughly enjoy his attitude.”
(Elmore Leonard)

“Richard Stark’s Parker novels . . . are among the most poised and polished fictions of their time and, in fact, of any time.”
(John Banville Bookforum)

“Parker is a true treasure. . . . The master thief is back, along with Richard Stark.”

(Marilyn Stasio New York Times Book Review)

“Westlake knows precisely how to grab a reader, draw him or her into the story, and then slowly tighten his grip until escape is impossible."

(Washington Post)

“Elmore Leonard wouldn’t write what he does if Stark hadn’t been there before. And Quentin Tarantino wouldn’t write what he does without Leonard. . . . Old master that he is, Stark does all of them one better.”
(Los Angeles Times)

“Donald Westlake’s Parker novels are among the small number of books I read over and over. Forget all that crap you’ve been telling yourself about War and Peace and Proust—these are the books you’ll want on that desert island.”
(Lawrence Block)

“Richard Stark writes a harsh and frightening story of criminal warfare and vengeance with economy, understatement and a deadly amoral objectivity—a remarkable addition to the list of the shockers that the French call roman noirs.”

(Anthony Boucher New York Times Book Review)

"Parker is a brilliant invention. . . . What chiefly distinguishes Westlake, under whatever name, is his passion for process and mechanics. . . . Parker appears to have eliminated everything from his program but machine logic, but this is merely protective coloration. He is a romantic vestige, a free-market anarchist whose independent status is becoming a thing of the past."
(Luc Sante New York Review of Books)

"I wouldn't care to speculate about what it is in Westlake's psyche that makes him so good at writing about Parker, much less what it is that makes me like the Parker novels so much. Suffice it to say that Stark/Westlake is the cleanest of all noir novelists, a styleless stylist who gets to the point with stupendous economy, hustling you down the path of plot so briskly that you have to read his books a second time to appreciate the elegance and sober wit with which they are written."
(Terry Teachout Commentary)

"If you're a fan of noir novels and haven't yet read Richard Stark, you may want to give these books a try. Who knows? Parker may just be the son of a bitch you've been searching for."

(John McNally Virginia Quarterly Review)

"The University of Chicago Press has recently undertaken a campaign to get Parker back in print in affordable and handsome editions, and I dove in. And now I get it."

(Josef Braun Vue Weekly)

"Whether early or late, the Parker novels are all superlative literary entertainments."

(Terry Teachout Weekly Standard)

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Product Details

  • Series: Parker Novels
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (August 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226771067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226771069
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Chris Ward VINE VOICE on March 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
I gotta disagree with the reviewer below-- this is one of the best Parkers. "The Handle" (otherwise known as "Run Lethal") is from the era of the real "classics" in the series, and it's terse and nasty and unpredictable. Yes, it features Grofield, an actor who moonlights as a heistman with Parker-- he's kind of the un-Parker, and some don't like him. He starred in four novels written by Stark/Westlake, and I agree that they're not quite up to the brutal standards of the early Parkers in the amorality stakes (but I still like them a lot).

Here, Grofield doesn't dominate the book, just takes a role as a part of the string Parker's assembling. He's a pro, and Parker can count on him. The book works well as a prelude to "Butcher's Moon," where Parker and Grofield find themselves in a similar situation.

Never read a Parker novel? Try this or any of the books from the Sixties: they're stripped-down, no-frills action novels, and Stark/Westlake does it better than almost anybody else.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Opa Wayne VINE VOICE on March 29, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoy Richard Stark's (a.k.a. Donald Westlake) Parker novels for several reasons. The Parker character is a strong "anti-hero" who the reader wants to succeed. Parker's plans for his capers are normally brilliant if executed well. Some unexpected interference always causes Parker to improvise during the operation. Parker tends to survive despite the serious complications, but never gets rich enough to retire.

In "The Handle", Parker gets an unusual new challenge. The mob wants to hire him to rob a competitor. This guy, who calls himself Baron, bought an island in the Gulf of Mexico more that forty miles off the coast of Texas. The Baron built a fancy casino and pleasure resort and, since he is out of all legal jurisdictions, he sets his own rules. The Baron rakes in the money and the mob is left out. If Parker can steal all the Baron's money and destroy the casino, it may put the Baron out of business.

The island is like a fortress with very little access. Boats can approach in two small areas, both easy to protect. There is no suitable place to land an aircraft. The Baron and several highly trained, experienced security personnel live on the island and keep it under constant surveillance. Security has the latest equipment and weapons.

How can Parker manage this tough job? Considering Parker's habit of having brilliant plans go awry, what will happen this time? "The Handle" is a suspenseful novel with multiple actions scenes, interpersonal conflicts, and intrigue. I recommend this novel to those who love action thrillers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christopher on November 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Parker said, "So you want me to take his money away."
"Right. I want you to pluck him like a chicken, scrape him clean. Don't just rob the place, burn it to the ground, rip it right off that God damn island and throw it in the sea. Gut it, like Couffignal. Or don't you know that one either?"
Parker didn't. He said, "What's in it for me?"

I read and enjoyed this book about a year ago. Re-reading it for this review, I found I enjoyed it even more.
"The handle" is thieves' slang for the loot, the take, the kitty; but Westlake/Stark is so clever, that he makes a key scene depend upon Parker seeing, and going for, a literal handle.

"Parker walked along the road toward the two men, and then he turned around and walked back toward the jeep. He passed the jeep and walked another twenty yards, and then turned around and did it all over again. On the second circuit he saw it, peeking up over the top of the wall, curved, plastic, black, alien. The handle. He let his lips spread in a smile. He started toward the handle."

Every Parker novel adheres strictly to a four-part form- parts one, two, and four from Parker's point-of-view, and part three from other points of view- in this case, Parker's partner Alan Grofield (who will have his own adventure in The Damsel: An Alan Grofield Novel), and Wolfgang Baron, the crafty overseer of the offshore casino. "The gutting of Cockaigne," as one might expect, does not come off quite as planned.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Larry Eischen on June 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Don't get me wrong-I love Richard Stark's (Donald E. Westlake's) Parker novels. It's just that I find his stories about actor/thief Alan Grofield to be lesser efforts-although still better than 99% of anybody else's suspense output. And this "Parker" novel seems to concentrate as much, if not more, on Grofield's adventures. Parker is hired by the Outfit to bust up an independent island casino. He's approached by federal agents who want the casino's owner brought in for arrest. All of which makes for a dynamite Parker novel with a little too much Grofield.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dave Wilde on July 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
In the beginning of Richard Stark’s “The Damsel,” Alan Grofield is laid up in a Mexico City hotel with a suitcase full of money and bullet wounds across his body. “The Handle” is the story of how he got there. With Parker and a few others, Grofield robbed a casino on a private island (ostensibly under the Cuban flag) off the coast of Texas. Strangely enough, Parker was engaged to pull this caper by the very Outfit that once had him in its sights. Can’t have a competitor operating, can you?

“The Handle” is a slang term referring to the loot one gets when robbing an establishment. Like all Parker novels, this story is told in sparse prose that shows how ruthless and singleminded Parker is when compiling his team of crack experts and when executing the robbery itself. It is a well-told story and includes some great scenes of mayhem and destruction, on and off the island. There are, as always, numerous things that seem to crop up when planning the perfect caper, but Parker deals with them in his way.

There are great characters that appear in this novel as well, including Grofield, who first made an appearance in the Score, and Salsa, who also appeared in that novel. Crystal is the dame the Outfit sent to pump Parker for information and she is quite interesting. The reader first meets her as Parker and her are preparing to board a boat to go to the casino for recon. Crystal just can’t stop blabbing on and on and, as Parker tries to tune her out, he realizes that she is scared of the boat ride and it’s the only way she can deal with it. The biography of the villain of the piece (or victim, if you will, since he was the one being robbed by Parker and company) is Baron and his biography is a fascinating piece all by itself, including instances of international espionage and boundary disputes.

The action in this Parker novel is ongoing and intense and it is just a terrific read.
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