Monday, 5 July 2010

Parker Progress Report: The Green Eagle Score

Ten down, fourteen to go: polished off Parker #10, The Green Eagle Score, at the weekend. It's a solid entry in the series, this time centring on a heist at a US air force base, which is a pretty audacious idea. As is often the way in Donald 'Richard Stark' Westlake's Parker books, the score goes off without a hitch but the aftermath sees yet another double cross, with the usual resultant deaths and desperate scrambles to retrieve the take and escape. At this point in the series it's got to the stage that you pretty much expect the robberies to go horribly wrong either during or after the event. Mind you, Parker himself half-expects it too, noting in this book that that's what he's there for: to plan the heists and to come up with an alternative plan when things (inevitably) go south.

Three things stuck out for me on The Green Eagle Score. The first is that Westlake works in a number of references to previous characters in the series. Handy McKay gets a mention, still running his diner; poor old Salsa gets a passing nod; and Scofe, the blind hobby shop owner and gun dealer, is referenced in a roundabout way: he isn't named, but when Parker brings the guns for this particular job, they're kept in model train boxes, which is how Scofe stores his illicit wares. I was surprised Parker went back to Scofe, actually; last time he met him, in The Score (Parker #5), Scofe's parting words to Parker were, "You scum! You vomit! You stinking cesspool!"

The second thing that struck me was an element of the plot, and how it partially shines a light on Parker's psychological makeup. Ellen, girlfriend of the finger for this job, Devers, is seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Godden, to whom she reveals the workings of the forthcoming air force base robbery. As part of that, she examines her feelings about Parker, concluding that he's utterly cold and uncaring, emotionless: "It's as though I didn't matter, as though whether I was even alive or not had no meaning at all. He doesn't care. I'm a worm to him, less than a worm. Nothing to him. Not even worth feeling contempt toward." Ah, sounds like the Parker we know and, er, love.

The final thing The Green Eagle Score does is provide an insight into how men like Parker end up living the life they do. Devers works in the finance office at the base; it's he who first sees the opportunity to steal the base's payroll, and he who brings in Fusco, Ellen's ex-husband (and therefore Parker and the rest). Devers has indulged in a little skimming before, but this is his first big score. Parker's initially distrustful of him, but soon realises that Devers is a potential career heister in the making. Once he's done this job, he'll likely settle into a similar pattern to Parker: a job every year or so, living the high life in-between. He's that type. So what we're witnessing is the birth of a new Parker.

We've had a little peek into this process before, notably with Grofield, but here we get to see it happen in 'real time', as Devers enrols at Parker's School for the Criminally Minded and slowly comes to realise that this really is the life for him. Parker even offers him a helping hand, sending him off to see Handy McKay for further instruction on how to live the criminal life. Which is rather sweet. Seems Parker's a big ol' softie after all...

Next up: The Black Ice Score...

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