Wednesday 24 February 2010

(Parker Progress Report) So I finished reading Richard Stark's Point Blank,

or The Hunter to give it its proper name, and it really is a brilliant book. The prose is brutally efficient, Stark's (or rather Westlake's) descriptions pared down to the bare essentials, yet still beautifully written and with clipped passages that nonetheless convey acres of character colour, particularly about Parker, the book's anti-hero. There are lots of memorable lines, but two in particular stuck in my head. One comes early in the novel (maybe even on the first page), where Westlake is describing Parker's appearance:

"His hands, swinging curve-fingered at his sides, looked like they were molded of brown clay by a sculptor who thought big and liked veins." There's a fantastic rhythm to that sentence, and indeed Parker's hands feature prominently throughout the rest of the book – often, it has to be said, as they close around someone's neck. And then there's this passage, from later in the novel, where Parker is staking out criminal organization the Outfit's hotel from a restaurant:

"He could look out at the street, and let his fifteen-cent cup of coffee cool. It was a Park Avenue coffee shop, and expensive. Pastrami on rye, eighty-five cents, no butter. Like that."

Terrific stuff. The book's full of things like that. I also loved the twist right at the end of the book with the suitcase, which I don't recall from reading Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel adaptation (maybe it is there though). I've got a 1970s Coronet edition of the next Parker, The Steel Hit (or The Man with the Getaway Face) on the way to me. Can't wait to read it.

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