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The Hunter: A Parker Novel (Parker Novels) Paperback – September 1, 2008
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Mass Market Paperback
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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*Starred Review* It’s been 50 years since the first, furious appearance of Parker as he walked across the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan—after trudging all the way across the country, hell-bent on revenge. Written pseudonymously by Donald E. Westlake, a pro’s pro well known for his later, lighter fare, this series about a tough, pent-up professional thief, a “bastard” who slaps women and makes them like it, is, on the one hand, unreconstructed, unrepentant, hard-boiled tough-guy pulp. On the other hand, it’s terrific. It may be a period piece to some, but it’s also been hugely influential, impressing writers from Elmore Leonard to John Banville, and Max Allan Collins to Dan Simmons. Hollywood has taken note, too: filmed versions include Point Blank (1967) and Payback (1999). And Darwyn Cooke’s magnificent graphic-novel adaptations (beginning with Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter, 2009) have brought the series to a whole new audience. But whether you find Parker’s approach to relationships infuriating or amusing, the author’s way with words is always powerful. As Parker relentlessly slaps, punches, glowers, and kills his way to the mobster who betrayed him and stole his woman, the prose hits as hard as two huge, bare-knuckled fists. And the structure throws a left hook, too. Halfway through the book, with Parker closing the room on his prey, Stark detours back to the beginning of the story. Still, when revenge has finally been served, it’s not enough. Not satisfied with killing one mobster, Parker declares war on the entire Mob, setting the stage for two dozen novels over the next four decades. (Westlake died in 2008, at the age of 75.) University of Chicago Press, an unlikely publisher, has done crime-fiction fans a great service by returning the first 20 Parker novels to print. The covers should be better, but it’s the pages inside that count. --Keir Graff
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Top customer reviews
The good news is that this is the first book and there are plenty more to keep you up way too late once you're hooked on them.
At the end of part 3 I saw that I’d been had. Parker, the clumsy oaf who gets jobs from taxi drivers, decides to do something by himself that would have required an army. That startled me into realizing that I hadn’t noticed any other character but Parker. Except for his poor girlfriend, all of them are basically cartoon characters, even the mobsters.
Then I knew why so much of the action had seemed ugly. Like cartoon characters, Parker’s opponents are cute. Stark tries to mix tones, but naturalism can’t be mixed with light comedy. It creates dissonance that has to be resolved. The resolution of this in THE HUNTER is something closer to fantasy, but not quite fantasy. Parker is no longer a driven, resourceful mortal, he’s criminal Superman. That’s a bad choice. There’s a reason that the comic book Superman does best in pure fantasy settings. In the mean streets setting, no one can defeat him. Mean streets Superman is boring.
I gave it 3.5 stars for the first 75% of the book and then knocked off a star for making me read the last 25% of the book.
I remember reading Westlake’s stories in Ellery Queen’s Magazine years ago and liking his simple and direct writing. His characters defined themselves by action and real time introspection. The epitome of this living and thinking in the present time is Parker, the main character of the first novel in the series, The Hunter. He is a large man with a personality founded on solitude and emotional reticence and a mostly single-minded approach to getting what he wants.
Parker is committed to a life of often violent criminal activity, felonious robberies, rewarded by months of leisure between crimes at luxury hotels. In The Hunter, Parker is married to the one person in the world he cannot live without. He knows the marriage leaves him vulnerable in the criminal world, but he cannot help himself. Parker and Lynn get involved in a heist and their plans and actions among thieves are good on the surface but treacherous behind the scenes.
Westlake’s writing is so good that the reader roots for the success of Parker but realizes from the beginning of the novel that something has gone very wrong with the “job.” I kept looking for more information about the history and motivation of Parker, hard to do when the character is constantly focused on the present criminal activity. He makes decisions and frequently acts out violently but without displays of angry emotions. After his acts, he shows no remorse, attending only to the present challenge.
The biggest challenge for Parker in The Hunter is dealing with “the syndicate,” a crime organization that becomes interested in his activities. He does not want anything to do with the criminals in the far-flung group based in New York. But, Parker realizes that you can’t always get what you want in a life based on illegal gains and functional mayhem. He has revenge on his mind for a double cross by a syndicate member.
I have already read the next 3 novels in the Parker Kindle series. Each book is short (The Hunter is 208 pages) and fast reading. The payoff for the reader is an understanding of an increasingly complex character with few if any socially redeeming qualities. He does show situational compassion to losers now and again.
they took me away - for a time - from dread and unease. Dread and unease, of course, do not exist in Parker's world. His relentless tred carries you down
shadowy corridors and silent littered alleyways of the mind. You didn't know where he was leading you; but you couldn't turn away.
Happily I followed Parker - last name? first? Stark never told us - up through the mid-seventies, when it appeared Parker found himself jammed into a world
he might not prefer to "operate" in. Which, of course, changed further on down the road into 2000. Long live prose-noir!
I love this new volume. I love its heft. its weight, its solidity. IDW and Parker's illustrative champion Darwyn Cooke have revived an old classic and made it somethng
new to treasure again. I hope this project spins out to fruition; and I hope I live long enough to see its completion. In the meantime, for all you Parker fanatics out there, PICK THIS VOLUME UP! Savor its stiletto-sharp prose - and wonder what your world might be like had you never met a guy like