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The Hunter: A Parker Novel (Parker Novels) Paperback – September 1, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 155 customer reviews
Book 1 of 24 in the Parker Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*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


“Parker represents the antihero with dubious morals. Stark’s clever plot structure, moving back and forth in time, is totally engrossing.”--Library Journal
(Library Journal 2008-10-05)

“Writing a couple of years ago . . . John Banville reckoned the Parker novels to be 'among the most poised and polished fictions of their time and, in fact, any time.' That's high praise from an impeccable source, and Banville is right to single out the technical excellence of these books. The Parkers read with the speed of pulp while unfolding with an almost Nabokovian wit and flair. . . . Original editions of these books, and even later reprints, change hands for scores or hundreds of dollars on the Net, and it’s excellent to have them readily available again—not so much masterpieces of the genre, just masterpieces, period. . . . . The Hunter glitters with seemingly effortless intricacy, being aimed at one episode—a stunner, the kind of moment in fiction that really does have you leaping from your chair and exclaiming in surprise and glee.”

(Richard Rayner Los Angeles Times 2008-09-14)

“Parker is refreshingly amoral, a thief who always gets away with the swag.”

(Stephen King Entertainment Weekly 2008-09-12)

“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 2008-08-28)

“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 Book World)

“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)

“If you’re looking for crime novels with a lot of punch, try the very, very tough novels featuring Parker. . . . The Hunter, The Outfit, The Mourner, and The Man with the Getaway Face are all beautifully paced, tautly composed, and originally published in the early 1960s."

(Christian Science Monitor)

“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 romans 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)

“The UC Press mission, to reprint the 1960s Parker novels of Richard Stark (the late Donald Westlake), is wholly admirable. The books have been out of print for decades, and the fast-paced, hard-boiled thrillers featuring the thief Parker are brilliant.”
(H. J. Kirchoff Globe and Mail)

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Product Details

  • Series: Parker Novels
  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226770990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226770994
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David N. Cook on August 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Hunter (also known by it's movie names of Point Blank or Payback) is the beginning of the "Parker" series written by Donald E. Westlake under the penname of Richard Stark. These were paperback originals in a noir crime vein with Parker as the master thief and organizer of major robberies. Written from the early 60's through the mid-70's, the first 12 or so novels became cult classics especially popular with prisoners! DEW resumed the series due to popular demand in the 90's and has completed about 4 more with 1 more just being released. The writing style is stripped-down for fast action and none of the characters seems to have any conscience, least of all Parker. About half of the jobs Parker is involved in go bad due to unforseen problems like greed and betrayal, so murder (but only out of necessity) and revenge are common themes. This series has been reprinted over and over as new readers discover Parker and his single-minded focus on robbery to maintain his quietly luxurious but anonymous lifestyle. Serious literature? NO! Great fun for the crime novel fan? YES!
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The Hunter

This is the book where Donald Westlake writing as Richard Stark introduces us to Parker in 1962. After re-reading the book after thitysomething years I realize that Lee Marvin was probably cast as a truer version of Parker. Danny DeVito would have been a good messenger and James Gandolfini would have made a better Mal Resnick. The ending was changed for the movie, but what the hey, that's Hollywood. I think I'll reread them all as my next project. They're that good.

I think Sam Elliott would make a great Parker. He could make a whole career out of this series.

As far as I can tell the other Parker books are:

1) The Hunter (1962; AKA Point Blank, Payback; Parker, by Richard Stark).
2) The Man With the Getaway Face (1963; AKA The Steel Hit; Parker,
3) The Outfit (1963; Parker, by Richard Stark)
4) The Mourner (1963; Parker, by Richard Stark)
5) The Score (1964; AKA Killtown; Parker, by Richard Stark)
6) The Jugger (1965; Parker, by Richard Stark)
7) The Seventh (1966; AKA The Split; Parker, by Richard Stark)
8) The Handle (1966; AKA Run Lethal; Parker, by Richard Stark)
9) The Rare Coin Score (1967; Parker, by Richard Stark)
10) The Green Eagle Score (1967; Parker, by Richard Stark)
11) The Black Ice Score (1968; Parker, by Richard Stark)
12) The Sour Lemon Score (1969; Parker, by Richard Stark)
13) Slayground (1971; Parker, by Richard Stark)
14) Deadly Edge (1971; Parker, by Richard Stark)
15) Plunder Squad (1972; Parker, by Richard Stark)
16) Butcher's Moon (1974; Parker, by Richard Stark)
17) Comeback (1997;
18) Backflash (1998; Parker)..
19) Flashfire (2000; Parker, by Richard Stark)..
20) Firebreak (2001; Parker, by Richard Stark) ..
21) Nobody Runs Forever (2004) Parker, by Richard Stark

Highly recommended for Parker fans and fans of action adventure stories.

Gunner December, 2007
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I've made a promise to reread all the early Parker novels by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) this year. The books are short and compact, and the reading will be a pleasure. I can burn through them in a sitting or two. The books are dated, of course, because most of them were written in the 1960s and early 1970s, and cell phones and the internet weren't prevalent. The targets of the professional criminals in these books would be a lot more difficult in present day.

But I can slip back into the time period effortlessly. Some of the younger generation of readers might struggle with that lack of technology unless they're well-versed in period piece stuff - back in the old days when they had to try to trace phone numbers.

Parker is one of those iconic characters in fiction that will forever stand out. He's been played by Lee Marvin (Point Blank), Chow Yun Fat (Full Contact) and by Mel Gibson (Payback). That's some rarified air there, folks. He's a big, gnarly brute of a man in the novels, a cold-heated professional when on the job, able to cut losses and throats with a single flick of a knife. As the series progresses, Parker softens a little, but not much. He maintains a bleak outlook on life and I love him for it. Comic writers like Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka probably read Stark, or at least works by other writers who were inspired by the Parker books.

In this first volume, Parker is on a mission of vengeance. He barely survived the last heist after being betrayed by one of his partners and his wife. Now he wants his cut of the profits. The double-cross is more complicated than Parker realizes. When the ex-partner took the money, it wasn't just about the money.
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Richard Stark was one of the pseudonyms of Donald E. Westlake (1933-2008), who was a very prolific, and acclaimed, noir crime fiction writer. The Mystery Writers of America bestowed their Grand Master award on Westlake in 1993. In The Hunter (1962), Westlake introduced the Parker character and he subsequently wrote 24 Parker novels, published between 1962 and 2008. These Parker novels are hardboiled crime fiction that presents violent criminals who are likely to punish and/or kill anyone who interferes with their criminal plans. The Parker character that Westlake introduces in this book is perhaps the quintessential example of that ruthless criminal. In this book, Parker and two of his associates steal $90,000, but one of his partners (Mal) tries to murder Parker by shooting him and then burning the building down. Mal also kills the other partner and escapes with the entire take. As you might have guessed, Parker did not die and he comes looking for Mal, who now works for a large criminal organization that used to be known as "The Syndicate" but is now known as "The Outfit" or "The Organization." Parker wants his share of the money ($45,000) that Mal had taken from him. He believes in a strong code of honor among thieves, and he plans to hunt his cutthroat murderous ex-partner down, and punish him for breaking that code of honor, and then to kill him. He also is determined to get his $45,000, and he will do whatever is necessary to get it. Parker shows no sympathy to those who try to prevent him from accomplishing his mission and he does not hesitate to eliminate anyone who gets in his way. He kills plenty of adversaries in this book, including some high-ranking members of "The Organization" and some collateral casualties.Read more ›
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