Friday 23 April 2010

Parker Repeat / The Jugger

Now that's interesting. I started reading the seventh Parker novel yesterday, The Split. I'm up to chapter two, and Westlake has just used the exact same sentence to describe an aspect of Parker's physical appearance as he used in Point Blank/The Hunter: "His hands looked like they'd been molded of brown clay by a sculptor who thought big and liked veins."

So what does that signify? Was that laziness on Westlake's part? Maybe the grind of pumping out six Parker novels in three years – not to mention the three or four (at least) other novels he wrote during that period – was getting to him. Or did he forget he used the same phrase before? Answers on a postcard, please.

As for The Split's predecessor, The Jugger, I really liked it, particularly the way Parker's too-neat resolution completely unravelled in the final few pages, leaving him as high and dry as he was at the start of Point Blank. Still, as Parker himself notes philosophically, and to quote Vonnegut Jr.: so it goes.

In response

to Book Glutton's comment on the post below this one, and the almost literally thousands of readers who are doubtless waiting nervously, feverishly even, for an answer, I kinda knew Grand Rapids was in Michigan. I was just using it as the basis for a facetious quip. No change there...

As to whether I read the rarer/more valuable Parker books I pick up, well, I read whichever copy I have to hand. So for example with Point Blank I was reading a 1967 Coronet paperback out and about and a 1984 Allison & Busby edition at home; for The Outfit I was reading a '70s Berkley paperback on the move and an '80s A&B hardback at home; The Split I've just started reading in an A&B hardback edition... and so on.

I'm careful with my books – I treat them nice, like – but far as I'm concerned books are meant to be read. I might acquire additional editions of books if I like the look of 'em or see 'em about, but I don't buy them as reading copies per se. As far as the Parker books go, I'm reading them in original publication order so I've yet to get to the really scarce ones. But when I do get to, say, Plunder Squad (not that I have a copy of that one... yet...) or Butcher's Moon, I'll read them in the rare and eye-wateringly expensive editions I have, whilst feeling exceedingly smug about it.

Feel free to slap me if you see me around.

Thursday 22 April 2010

New Arrivals

Couple of new acquisitions turned up today. One of them I've already mentioned: a 1991 Allison & Busby paperback edition of the twelfth Richard Stark/Parker novel, The Sour Lemon Score. But here it is again for good measure:

The other new arrival was this:

A US first edition of Backflash, the eighteenth Parker novel (and second in the second run of books, following Comeback), published in hardback by Mysterious Press in 1998. I mentioned before I wasn't terribly keen on the jacket design that Mysterious Press introduced for the US Parker novels with this book, and that I intended to collect the UK Robert Hale editions instead. But I saw this for sale on eBay from the UK, for cheaper than the Robert Hale edition, and thought, sod it.

And actually, now I have the book, that jacket is more interesting than I first reckoned. Designers Jackie Merri Meyer and Rachel McClain have taken Daniel Pelavin's hand-lettering and illustration and slapped them onto what looks like a file or envelope, complete with staple at the bottom. The whole file has then been shifted so it looks skewiff, and the edges blurred as if it's a microfilm, I guess to emphasize the 'mystery' nature of the book, in line with Time Warner imprint it's published by. Of course, Parker novels aren't really mysteries, although they do often have mystery elements in them, or rather aspects of the plots that Parker himself is unaware of but that get revealed to us during the Stark Cutaways.

So, not quite sure if that is the effect the designers were going for, but I don't mind the end result. I think I will pick up the rest of the later Parkers in Robert Hale editions, though, particularly seeing as I already have Firebreak in that edition.

Oh, and this copy of Backflash is ex-library (in excellent nick, mind), this time from the East Grand Rapids branch of Kent District Library, wherever the hell that is. I actually grew up in Kent. But not that Kent. Certainly don't remember there being any grand rapids in the part of Kent – Beckenham – I'm from. Although there's one bit of the river that runs through Kelsey Park, where I used to fish for sticklebacks as a kid, that can be a bit pacey when it's been raining...

Wednesday 21 April 2010

I'm often asked,

by no one other than myself, in my head, why I don't review more of the comics I buy – when I actually get to buy said comics, that is, when volcanos and the ongoing shitness of DC and Marvel's publishing strategies permit, that is; why I merely waffle on about which comics I'll be buying on a particular week (or not, as is increasingly the case) and rarely follow up with reviews of the comics I buy (or rather don't buy, many weeks). And the answer to that question that nobody other than me asked, is that in a world where Tucker Stone is reviewing comics, there really isn't anything for anyone else to say.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

The Parker Allison & Busby Editions: Part 2 Delayed

I still intend to get to Part 2 of my guide to the Allison & Busby editions of the Parker novels – part the one here – but it's taking a little time to get it straight in my head, chronologically speaking. See, after the initial eight hardbacks Allison & Busby published in the mid-eighties, with their bold typographical Mick Keates jackets, along these lines:

the publisher changed tack and introduced a new design from the mid- to late-eighties, still by Mick Keates, but accompanied by almost film still/photocopy-like illustrations (some, like on The Outfit, possibly even lifted from the Point Blank movie). Such as this:

Hardbacks and paperbacks of this second wave of A&B editions were seemingly published either in quick succession or possibly even simultaneously, and both hardbacks and paperbacks had the same covers (although adapted slightly for the paperback). I'm unsure about the order they were published and when the paperbacks were published, which is one of the things that's holding me back from doing Part 2. (And by the way, that 1988 hardback edition of The Outfit – and is that Lee Marvin there on the cover? – was the same size as the earlier A&B hardbacks, but the other A&B hardbacks in this second wave seem to have been published at the same smaller size as the paperbacks in this wave. Go figure.)

But there are other issues that are keeping me from doing Part 2. To add a further wrinkle, also at this time A&B started publishing some of their earlier hardbacks in paperback, except in this new style of cover. For example:

That's the 1985 hardback edition of The Man with the Getaway Face on the left, and the 1986 paperback edition on the right. So another thing I don't know is how many of those first eight A&B hardbacks were subsequently published as paperbacks in this new style.

But we're not done yet. Because there's one further iteration of A&B editions, which I think came in in the late eighties/early nineties. These kept the same style as the second wave of A&B editions, but introduced illustrations by Stephen Hall. They looked like this:

I don't think there were many of these, and I believe they were all paperbacks. But to add to the confusion, not only were there completely new editions (for A&B that is) like Deadly Edge, but also paperbacks of earlier hardback editions, like The Sour Lemon Score, which I banged on about in an earlier post today.

These are knotty problems. And that's why I ain't done me Part 2 yet. Even though I know the world is waiting for it, breath bated. Isn't it?


I just noticed that the rather ace website The Violent World of Parker has linked to Existential Ennui in their weekly news round-up on their blog. Which is nice. If a little bizarre. But it might explain the random visitors I've been getting recently. To whom I can only apologise for the meandering, essentially pointless nature of many of the posts here. Such as this one.

Parker Progress Report: The Score and more

So where are we up to on the Parker novels? Well, reading-wise, I finished Parker #5, The Score – 1984 Allison & Busby hardback, the edition I read, seen here – and I'm two thirds of the way through the next one, The Jugger, which I gots in a 1986 A&B paperback – see below. The Score was bloody great, possibly the best one so far, with a brilliant heist involving the take-down of a whole town, Parker working alongside a host of fellow criminals, including a debut appearance for Alan Grofield, who also pops up in a number of later Parker books and four novels of his own. I liked Grofield in this one: he's young, smart, and unusually upbeat for a Stark/Westlake character. But he also has his faults; at one point in the book he's criticized by Parker and another character for not paying his taxes. Which sounds a bit of an odd thing to have to do for a career criminal, but as Parker notes, non payment of taxes is a surefire way to bring the Federal government down on you.

The Jugger is a different beast altogether from previous novels. There's no score to speak of; instead Parker is looking into the death of Joe Sheer, the safecracker who acts as Parker's mail drop. Not for altruistic reasons, mind; simply because Sheer knew Parker's main alias, Charles Willis, as well as many of the scores Parker has taken. So when Sheer writes to Parker (prior to dying, obv) asking for help with a problem – something that men in this line of work just don't do, unless it's help with a robbery – Parker goes to see him with the intention of possibly killing him. It's always self-interest with Parker. I've just reached the Stark Cutaway on this one, where we find out what happened to Sheer. It's a different kind of novel, f'sure, but still terrific.

In collecting news, the Icelandic volcano has almost certainly delayed a Parker first edition I've got on order from the US, but in the meantime, I just nabbed this on eBay for a song:

The 1991 Allison & Busby UK paperback of The Sour Lemon Score (Parker #12). It may not look like much to you, chief, being somewhat scruffy, but the cheapest copies of this edition on AbeBooks at the moment are thirty or forty quid from the States, and on Amazon it's more like sixty quid. I got it for much less than a tenner. And yes, I know I already have this:

the 1986 A&B hardback, but I like the cover of the paperback, which sports an illustration by Stephen Hall, whose work graced a few of the later A&B paperbacks, as I've mentioned before. I haven't seen a picture of this particular cover online before. Looking forward to receiving it.

Oh, and I almost forgot: I made a cryptic comment about symmetry when I was blathering on about Comeback in this post, and I just realised I never followed up on that. The symmetry thing was I knew I had a 1974 US first edition of Butcher's Moon – the final Parker in the original run of novels – on the way to me, which is why it was nice to have a 1997 US first edition of Comeback – the first Parker in the second run – too. See? Symmetry. Proper US first editions either side of the twenty-three-year break.

Yeah, OK, bit of a weird one. I'm a funny old stick.

The (Absence) List

Ooh, I got all excited there for a moment. I was looking at the list of comics that are coming out this week, and managed to find five I wanted. So I was gonna post something about the irony of there finally being a week where there are five comics coming out that I want (as opposed to the usual one or two) but I wouldn't be able to get them anyway because the blinkin' Icelandic volcano has cut the UK off from the rest of the world and there are no new comics coming in from the States this week.

And then I realised I was looking at next week's list.


In fact, it wouldn't matter to me if the new comics arrived this week anyway, because, looking at this week's list, there are no new comics I want. None. Nuffink. Zilch.

It's almost as if the volcano knew...

Monday 19 April 2010

Volcanic Activity

There may be hundreds of thousands of people stuck all over the world as a result of the Icelandic volcano, but it's only now that the real effects of the no-fly zone are being felt. To whit: there'll be no new comics in the UK this week! Diamond, the comics distributor, can't send over the latest shipment from the States. So this'll be two weeks in a row I won't have been to the comic shop. Good lord.

I've also got a book on order from the US, so that'll be going nowhere too.

Oh well.