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The Handle: A Parker Novel (Parker Novels)
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 29, 2006
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
VINE VOICEon March 29, 2011
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
on November 27, 2013
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
on June 27, 2001
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
on July 30, 2014
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I am working my way through the Parker books in the order they were written and my favorite book so far is "The Score." This one is my second favorite. The story brings a bunch of elements from earlier Parker books into play. One of the great things about the Parker series is how each story builds on the previous one, so it is pretty cool to see things like the Outfit and Grofield make appearances. The Feds also make an early play and put the squeeze on Parker, whose invisibility to them has slowly been destroyed over the last few books, especially in "The Jugger."

The caper is incredible and the stakes are high as Parker sets out to take down an isolated island casino. This Parker outing has the usual breakneck pacing Parker fans are used to. It is not unusual to read reviews which claim these books are too short, This was the first book where I would agree with that. So much goes on and things happen so fast that characters and motivations are introduced then pushed aside or left unresolved because the action moves forward relentlessly. This is OK with Parker books because you know things will come back to haunt Parker and his cohorts in future novels.

I also think the perception of the books being too short comes from the pacing. You can really find yourself flying through the pages as you get completely caught up in the story. On my first sitting, before I even realized it, I had already plowed through 60% of the book and the big robbery was just starting.

If you haven't read any Parker novels, I suggest you start with the first one called "The Hunter." By the time you get to this one, you won't even be bothering with reviews any more. You will already be on the Parker bullet train.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2010
The eighth novel in the sensational Parker series isn't as believable as some of the others, especially the end chapters, but action and fast paced storyline wise, The Handle is right up there. Most Parker novels if you didn't know they written in the 60s (this one 1966) you'd never know, the Handle however involves a war criminal (The Baron) from World War II who recounts some of his experiences during that era, so you are constantly reminded this isn't a modern day or even recent adventure. Not that that's a bad thing, period piece fiction is great but it may be a factor for some people that may make them want to chose another Parker adventure instead. The Handle also gives away a fair bit of the plots from the previous seven books so it is best to read those first. You will still enjoy this one to its full extent without having read those books but once you've read one Parker novel you'll want to know the rest and if you've read this one you'll know what happens in some of those. The Handle does use the * and footnote factor that tells you which of those novels the spoiler is from if you do want to know.

In The Handle Parker is contacted by the Outfit (slang for the mob in the mid 1960s) who he has previously been to war with. They want him to rob, burn down and bankrupt a casino operating on an isolated island south of the USA that has been claimed by Cuba. It is run by a war criminal known as The Baron who refuses to give the Outfit a cut of his proceeds like they have bullied from mainland US ones. The American government also want to prosecute The Baron but can't touch him on Cuban soil. The island has its own heavily armed security and the island s isolation means it is an extremely hard caper to pull off.

You can also read a sequel to the ending of this that isn't part of the Parker series, but instead is the first of four books written with just the Alan Grofield character on the pages and not Parker. That is called The Damsel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 21, 2013
Stark is, simply stated, the best of the best at noire detective fiction. It's very clear that he learned his craft at the feet of the original masters, and more importantly, many of the more recent authors have picked up so many touches of Stark's style - the anti-hero with a sense of his own morality (even though it's often at odds with what society says is right and wrong); great action scenes compellingly told; exposition through terse dialogue. The voice of his principle character, Parker, is unforgettable. Over the series of novels, there's significant character growth and development, but each novel is great even as a stand-alone. I came acros Stark's work through Amazon's suggestion that if I liked X, I'd like this. I did, I do, and thanks.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2010
This was my least favorite Parker novel so far. It felt very cookie-cutter, even as far as this series goes which relies upon the same simple formula in each book. It just felt very uninspired. Parker is still great character, but this book is really the low point before the introduction of Claire.

J.Ja
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2012
Richard Stark's Parker is the antithesis of Lee Child's Reacher. They're both anti-social and loners, but they somehow get under your skin. Parker is to "bad" what Reacher is to "good." I can't put these books down.
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