Saturday 27 February 2010

The Curse of the Collector

Yes, dear friends, I have embarked on yet another fool's errand. I've started hunting down Allison & Busby hardback editions of Richard Stark's Parker novels. Now, bear in mind these aren't actually first editions; they date from the 1980s, twenty years after the books were first published in the States. But they are the first British hardback editions. Prior to these, the Parker novels were only available in the UK as paperbacks from Coronet (although with neat silver double-covers, the title of each book to be seen through a 'burn' hole in the outer cover). As a result, the Allison & Busby editions have become highly collectable... and in some cases highly pricey... and in other cases, highly impossible to find.

Nothing like a challenge, eh?

There are sixteen Parker novels in the original run (Stark brought the character back in a second series in the nineties/noughties), and today's post brought two of them:

That's The Outfit (Parker #3, A&B edition 1988, original US printing 1963) and The Handle (a.k.a. Run Lethal, Parker #8, A&B edition 1985, original US printing 1966). And yes, it does seem as if Allison & Busby published the novels out of sequence, which must have been a bit annoying at the time. Then again, pre-internet/wikipedia, it wasn't always easy to work out what all the novels in a particular series even were, let alone what order they came in.

So then. Two down, fourteen to go.

Ooh, and this turned up today too:

Pity Him Afterwards
, Donald Westlake's fifth novel under his own name (Richard Stark was one of his pseudonyms). This is the 1964 American first edition, which I managed to find online. It's about a crazed killer, but beyond that I know nothing. Another early Westlake also turned up a few days ago, Killy, which is about a union rep's fall from grace. That one is a UK first edition, also from 1964, a year after the US edition, and published by Boardman as part of their American Bloodhound Mystery series. I can't find a scan of the cover online, but the jacket sports a great illo of the title character (in white and grey, with a red heart in front of the book's title) by Denis McLoughlin, who was Boardman's art director.

And I should have some more Westlake/Stark news soon...

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.

Monday 22 February 2010

As a follow-up to the post below this one,

weirdly, after I'd emailed Goldstone Books about the Richard Stark novel I was after and received no response, and they'd subsequently taken it off AbeBooks and off their website on Friday, on Saturday they listed the same book on eBay... for exactly the same price. So I bought it. And today I received an email saying they'd posted it. Colour me baffled. What a bizarre, roundabout way to do business.