Friday 5 March 2010

Progress Report: The Richard Stark 'Parker' Novels

The other package I was waiting for turned up yesterday, containing this:

The 1987 Allison & Busby UK hardback edition of Richard Stark's fourth Parker novel, The Mourner. It came in the same package as this:

The 1986 A&B paperback edition of the sixth Parker novel, The Jugger. And straight away something struck me as being odd about The Mourner. I looked at it in my hands, looked at the paperback of The Jugger, looked over to the other A&B Parker hardbacks on the shelf, looked back to the book in my hands... and realised it's smaller than the other hardbacks, about the same size as The Jugger, which is larger paperback size. At first I wondered if A&B started publishing the hardbacks at a smaller size from 1987, but that can't be right 'cos I have a 1988 A&B edition of the third Parker novel, The Outfit, and that's at the same larger size as the other ones. And it can't be that A&B dropped the size to fit in with later Parker novels they'd already published (A&B published out of sequence, remember), because my copy of the A&B edition of the eighth Parker novel, The Handle, which they published in 1986, is the larger size again.

Still with me? No? Good.

Well anyway, granted, in the grand scheme of things this isn't exactly earth-shatteringly important, and is probably of no interest to anyone other than, er, me. But it does leave me with two unanswered questions:

1) Why did Allison & Busby change the size of their Parker hardbacks? The logical course for them when they were republishing the novels in the eighties would have been to keep them all at the same trim size, thus creating a uniform library. So why the change?

2) Which of the A&B Parker hardbacks I haven't yet seen are in the larger size and which are in the smaller size? (I only have five of the sixteen hardbacks, and it's going to take me a fair while to acquire the rest, so I can't see this one being answered anytime soon.)

Oh, and one other book turned up yesterday:

A 1972 Coronet reprint paperback of the ninth Parker novel, The Rare Coin Score, with one of those nifty double covers. That'll tide me over till I can find an Allison & Busby hardback edition.

And for no one's benefit other than my own, I shall now list, in order of original publication (i.e. the sixties/early seventies dates) the Parker novels from the initial run I now own (and the edition I have 'em in), and the ones I still need to track down. Here's what I got and ain't got:

Point Blank/The Hunter (Allison & Busby HB, 1985; also Coronet PB, 1967)
The Steel Hit/The Man with the Getaway Face (Coronet PB, 1971)
The Outfit (A&B HB, 1988; also Berkley PB 1973)
The Mourner (A&B HB, 1987)
The Score/Killtown (still to get)
The Jugger (A&B PB, 1986)
The Seventh/The Split (still to get)
The Handle/Run Lethal (A&B HB, 1986)
The Rare Coin Score (Coronet PB, 1972)
The Green Eagle Score (still to get)
The Black Ice Score (still to get)
The Sour Lemon Score (still to get)
Deadly Edge (still to get)
Slayground (A&B HB, 1984)
Plunder Squad (still to get)
Butcher's Moon (still to get)

All of the ones I don't have are going to be tricky to find at affordable prices, but Deadly Edge, Plunder Squad and Butcher's Moon are going to be frickin' impossible. I don't think Allison & Busby even published those last two. In fact, I'm not sure they were ever published in the UK at all.

Ah, the thrill of the chase.

Thursday 4 March 2010

(Revenge of) This Week's Comics

Just realised I haven't done one of these for a while, so let's take a look at what I done got in that there ol' comic shop:

Crossed #9
Invincible Iron Man #24

Er, that's it. I've seen comments on the web that this is a quiet week, but I never seem to buy more than two or three comics most weeks these days anyway, so it's a standard week for me. I toyed with getting Valerie D'Orazio's PunisherMax one-shot Butterfly, but I read a preview online and it slightly bored me. Plus, y'know what? It's Just Not Garth Ennis (Slight Return). I did, however, pick up the new Doctor Who Magazine for 20p because the woman in WHSmiths gave me the wrong change. Result.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

Slayground (Reprise)

Book publishers love movies. If a publisher can tie a book into a film somehow, they will. You can see why: the publicity generated by a movie (so the reasoning goes) can only benefit sales of a related book. If it's a film based on a novel, the publisher can shout about that fact on the cover or, even better, license a still or the poster from the movie for the book's cover. It almost doesn't matter if the film's any good or not. If it's a good film, stands to reason people will want to seek out the original novel. If it isn't, well, the publisher can simply spread the word that, hey, the movie might be crap, but the original novel's great! (I saw this in action for myself whilst working at Titan when the film version of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen came out. The film turned out to be a dog, but the graphic novel sold gangbusters off the back of it.)

I mention all this because I've just checked out the back flap of Slayground (see previous post) and consequently have answered my own question as to why Allison & Busby decided to publish the fourteenth Parker novel first: there was a film out. As the flap text states, "Richard Stark has written fourteen novels featuring his coldly methodical anti-hero Parker [actually it was sixteen by this point – Plunder Squad and Butcher's Moon followed Slayground in the early seventies – but anyway...]. Peter Coyote is the fourth to take the role in a major film [er, actually he was the sixth by this point, although I guess that depends on how you define "major film"; Made in USA, Point Blank and The Split all get a mention in the text, but surely The Outfit qualifies too...?] – Slayground."

And here it is:

And yes, that bloody face in the background is indeed Mel Smith, of Alas Smith & Jones and Not the Nine O'clock News fame. I haven't seen Slayground, but the review at Violent World of Parker (which is a terrific website) ain't great. And they should know.

Anyway. Another question answered.


I'm back. And the package I was worrying about had arrived, containing this:

The 1984 Allison & Busby edition of Richard Stark's Slayground. It has a 2cm tear to the front of the jacket and the spine's a bit faded, but considering what I paid for it (not very much) I can't complain. And it's arrived, which is the main thing. (Of course, there's still the other outstanding package... but that's a worry for another day.)

Slayground is the fourteenth Parker novel, but curiously it appears to be the first one A&B published, before Point Blank even. No idea why that's the case. Perhaps the rights weren't immediately available on the earlier ones... Or maybe they figured they'd start with a really good Parker (Slayground is supposed to be one of the best in the series). We may never know.

The Sickness

You know what? Further to the previous post, I'm going to go home at lunchtime and see if I've had a delivery.

If anyone does know of a good psychiatrist, feel free to leave details in the comments section.

The Anguish of Home Deliveries

I get the books I order delivered to my home address for two reasons: a) because there's always the chance of a book I've ordered turning up at the weekend, and I hate the thought of it not being delivered because I've had it sent to my work address instead; and b) because I can't be arsed to change my delivery address. But this does give rise to a certain anguish when a book I've ordered doesn't turn up when I expect it to.

For instance, at the moment I'm fretting over one (and possibly two) packages. One of them I got an email notification on Friday that it had shipped... but today is Wednesday and it still hasn't arrived. I think the package will be too big for the letter box, and I'm at work, so it'll probably go back to the delivery office and I'll have to go and pick it up. But what if the postie just leaves it outside, and someone nicks it? Or what if someone else throws away the delivery card? Or what if it just goes mysteriously awry?

I expect it'll be fine. I can't do anything about it now anyway. But still. These thoughts prey on my mind.

So the questions is... do I need psychiatric help?

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Point Blank (Slight Return)

Today's Richard Stark delivery (or rather yesterday's; the postie tried to deliver it yesterday but I was at work, so I had to go pick it up this morning) was this:

The 1984 Allison & Busby UK first edition hardback of Point Blank (a.k.a. The Hunter). A novel which, regular readers might recall, I already own in this edition:

The 1967 Coronet paperback. Is that a bit weird? Buying a book twice? I mean, the A&B edition's really nice, with its silver title and bullet holes, and my copy is a particularly good one, getting on for near-fine I'd say (excellent condition dustjacket, cream pages)... but even so. I now own two editions of the same book. Well, three editions if you count my signed bookplate edition of Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel adaptation of The Hunter:

Yeah, OK. It's a bit weird.

Anyway. I've started reading the second Parker novel now, The Steel Hit (I'm reading the seventies Coronet paperback edition; its original title is The Man with the Getaway Face), and it's promising thus far. Although I can see the heist going wrong already...

Monday 1 March 2010

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

I powered through this, probably Jim Thompson's best known novel (along with The Grifters I guess) over a few days, and it is a disturbing read. The narrator, Lou Ford, is compelled to kill, preferably women, but really he's not too choosy. There are a couple of twists, but mostly it's a straightforward tale of the sickness inside Lou, his compulsion to kill. It's not terribly gory, but it doesn't need to be; Lou's accounts of his murders are sickeningly mundane. One in particular lodged in my brain: he punches a woman in the stomach so hard his knuckles can feel her spine, which is an awful, memorable image.

God knows what Michael Winterbottom's film will be like. Apparently it's faithful, right down to a period setting (the 1950s), so I can see why, reportedly, there were walk-outs at one screening. The Killer Inside Me isn't a novel I'll soon forget, and not in a good way. Then again, maybe that was Thompson's aim, like Michael Haneke's stern cinematic lectures (Benny's Video, Funny Games, etc.): to confront the reader (or viewer) with something so vile they question their motives in reading (or watching) it.

Of course, as with Haneke, that's likely a simplistic reading. As with Haneke's films, I think there's a lot more going on in The Killer Inside Me than mere finger-wagging, although I'm not sure what yet. One to digest, then.