Thursday 1 March 2012

Westlake Score: Comeback, by Richard Stark (Robert Hale, 2001)

(NB: A version of this post also appears on The Violent World of Parker blog.)

Before we get into this latest Westlake Score, I'd just like to say a big thank you to Adam Newell for his excellent guest post on Roald Dahl's little-known first novel, Some Time Never... and shake a friendly fist at him as well: as a direct result of his post I ended up splurging on a British first edition of the book (under its slightly different title Sometime Never). Still, it's me birthday soon. Call it an early birthday present (er, to myself).

So, to business. And as we've repeatedly established over the years I've been blogging about the Donald E. Westlake/Richard Stark first-and-other editions I buy and collect, Westlake Scores comes in many shapes, sizes and levels of desirability. Some, like my most recent one (prior to this latest one, that is), are really quite special. Others, like this one, are nothing special at all. But most fall somewhere in-between those two poles, and that's probably where this newest Score resides:

It's the UK hardback first edition of Comeback, published by Robert Hale in 2001. The seventeenth Parker novel, Comeback is of course also the first book in the second run of Parkers, and arrived twenty-three years after the preceding novel in the series, 1974's Butcher's Moon. Or rather, it did so in the States: Comeback was published in 1997 over there; it took another four years for a British publisher – Hale, in case your attention span has degraded to the same level as mine – to acquire the rights to it and the subsequent Parkers.

Now, in many ways, there's nothing special about this edition of Comeback at all. It was, as I say, published a good long while after the Mysterious Press American edition – so long, indeed, that I actually bought a US first back in 2010 because the gap in publication really bothered me – an aversion I've since, evidently, come to terms with. Moreover, like all of the Parker novels Hale published, its dustjacket sports an illustration on the front by an artist – Derek Colligan – who is something of an acquired taste (although I must admit his style has grown on me). And furthermore, when this copy popped up on eBay recently, I was the only bidder.

Taking that last point alone, you might reasonably surmise that there's little, if any, demand for this edition. But in fact like most of the Hale editions of the Parker novels, Comeback has become really rather scarce. There's currently just one copy of the Hale first on AbeBooks, priced at over seventy quid, and a further four copies on Amazon Marketplace, the cheapest of those being £34. It's a similar story with others of the six Parker novels Hale published – either that or the only available copies are public library re-binds. (I've conjectured previously that the the bulk of the print runs of the Stark and Westlake books Hale published went to libraries, and the available evidence certainly seems to bear that out.) So while the Hale edition of Comeback may have lagged behind the Mysterious Press one, it's a damn sight rarer than its US cousin (there are umpteen copies of the Mysterious Press first for sale online).

Fascinating stuff, I'm sure you'll agree (ahem), but what about the novel itself? Well, funnily enough, Comeback will be the next Parker novel I'll be reviewing in my ongoing Parker Progress Report trawl through the series, so look out for that soon. Next up on Existential Ennui, though: Notes from the Small Press...

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