- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Mysterious Press; First Edition edition (November 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0892967102
- ISBN-13: 978-0892967100
- Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 56 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,242,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Flashfire Hardcover – November, 2000
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Richard Stark's professional criminal, Parker, is so hard-boiled he could make an egg cry. Blunt and matter-of-fact (the less charitable might say cold and calculating), he has perfected the art of theft. Unfortunately, perfection can be a relative term, a concept made vulnerable by the honor--or lack thereof--among thieves. When Parker joins forces with three other crooks to rob a Nebraska bank, he's prepared for a gentlemanly division of the proceeds, not for a double-cross. But his colleagues have other plans for his share: it will be their seed money for a $12 million Palm Beach jewel heist. What's Parker to do but make his own plans to steal the Palm Beach loot from the double- crossers?
Working his way across the Southeast in a series of carefully executed robberies and changes of identity, Parker arrives in Palm Beach, where he finds more barriers along the path of revenge than he could have imagined. Chief among them: a diabolically clever plan by his former partners; a real estate agent named Leslie with an unfortunately sharp sense of character; and a team of professional hit men out for Parker's blood (but why?).
In his third outing after a long retirement by Stark (the pen name of Donald E. Westlake, revered for the comic capers of his bumbling crook, Dortmunder), Parker is in fine form: steely, sardonic, detached. Stark's acidly funny depictions of Palm Beach and its native fauna are a bonus:
Alice Prester Young knew she was a herd animal, and enjoyed the knowledge, because the herd she moved with was the very best herd in all the world. For instance, here she was, at five-thirty this Thursday afternoon, in her chauffeured Daimler, with her new husband, the delicious Jack, to pick up just the perfect jewelry for tonight's pre-auction ball, and she knew when she arrived at the bank she would be surrounded by her own kind, chauffeured and cosseted women with attractive escorts, all coming to the bank (the only bank one could use, really) because this particular bank stayed open late whenever there was an important ball in town, just so the herd could come get its jewelry out of the safe-deposit boxes.Not to be missed by fans of gritty noir, nor by those who prefer their crime cocktails with a comic twist: Stark and Parker will give you both. --Kelly Flynn
If there was a Mohs' scale for the hardness of hard-boiled crime novels, it might be aptly named for Richard Stark. His character, Parker, is just about the coldest, hardest, most resolute professional thief in print today. Some of Parker's actions and calculations are purely chilling. So it's especially ironic, or better, remarkable, that Stark is actually Donald E. Westlake, who is better known for the comic capers of his star-crossed crook, Dortmunder. Here the flint-hard Parker has joined three other pros in robbing a midwestern bank. As soon as they make their getaway, the trio invites Parker to join them in a really big score--$12 million in diamonds from a Palm Beach mansion. Parker opts out, even after they explain that they need his share of the bank robbery as seed money. Righteously angry at being stiffed, Parker resolves to steal the Palm Beach haul from them. Needing his own seed money, Parker stages a series of carefully wrought but violent and brazen robberies. But an accident of poor timing--the kind of unforeseeable accident that usually forces Dortmunder to steal the same thing three times--puts Parker in the gunsights of professional hitmen and threatens his efforts to get more than even with his onetime partners. Diamond-hard crime fiction. Thomas Gaughan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
The novels are in two bunches. The group started in the USA of the late 1950's and early 1960's (The Hunter)and ended with Butcher's Moon in 1974. Stark returned to the character with Comeback in 1997. This novel was first published in 2000 and is the third in the second bunch.
Parker is now older and where once he could create a fake identity literally with a ballpoint pen and a few pieces of paper (see The Hunter) he now has to get professional help. In this case, he needs a new ID after a caper goes sour and like his very first adventure, he goes seeking his money from those who took it, ultimately this trail leads to Palm Beach.
The description of Palm Beach suggests Westlake has some familiarity with the area, and the bits of gossipy asides help give the book local color. The plot is clever and well thought through, although the denouement where Parker escapes the bad guys depends a bit on luck and supernatural forethought and planning.
A good book in the series; not too hard for new comers to get into. Worth comparing with The Hunter, The Man with the Getaway Face and The Outfit.
In "Flashfire," Parker's accomplices in a stick up that takes place in the first chapter want him to join them and kick in the lion's share of his end as "seed money" for a truly once-in-a-lifetime score, a multi-million-dollar jewel robbery in Palm Beach, Florida. Parker, partly due to native stubbornness but also because he thinks the job can't be done, resists. His now ex-partners take his share anyway and tell him they will be in touch.
Instead, Parker gets in touch with them -- in a violent way. As anybody knows who has followed this series by Donald Westlake (writing as Richard Stark), Parker is not someone you want to cheat. He immediately sets out to even the score, pulling several stylish robberies in a row to raise the cash he needs to go to Florida, get his revenge and screw up his former colleagues' plans.
Once he arrives there, he joins forces with Leslie, a real estate broker on the make who pushes her way in to his revenge scheme in the hope of making enough money to put a bad marriage and divorce behind her. The rest of the novel focuses on how our protagonist gets back at his former colleagues in truly Parker-esque fashion.
This is a solid four-star novel, a perfect quick read with plenty of action and a minimum of extraneous business. The characterization is sharp and believable, the dialog works and the plot makes sense, given Parker's twisted code of ethics. But, as I said in the first paragraph of this review, the folks who made the Jason Statham film "Parker" from it have actually managed to improve on the original.
(A DVD of the film, incidentally, will be available on May 21. It is available for pre-order from Amazon now at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=parker.)
For one thing, they eliminate a couple of characters who really don't move the story forward very effectively, including Leslie's semi-retarded sister (who figures in a subplot that sets up the book's ending in a way that isn't nearly as satisfying as the one in the film).
Second, they dump a couple of subplots overboard that are simply weak and seem to waste the reader's time. The action unfolds in pretty much the same way, the key scenes are all there and the conclusion is virtually identical to that in the book. All that has been changed is a little bit of streamlining in the narrative which actually gives the story greater impact.
In short, I give the novel four stars, but the film made from it a full compliment of five. Sometimes even a good writer can use some edits, and the ones that were made in the film version greatly improve the story.