The Guardian recently reviewed a book by Richard Stark which looks like being about the twentieth Parker novel, and recommended reading the first one - originally published as The Hunter but now known under the title Point Blank.
In this book, Parker is a small-time criminal who's been double-crossed and left for dead. After being arrested for vagrancy and then escaping from prison, he's out to get revenge, and his money.
This is quite a short book but it's very powerful. Parker is single-minded in his objective of finding the people who betrayed him, and what's impressive is how little he cares about how he does it. The bodies pile up and old acquaintainces are exploited with no apparent care for consequences so long as Parker gets what he wants. He is brilliantly amoral.
When Parker wants to get the money back that should have been his as a result of the initial heist, it turns out he has to confront "The Outfit", a criminal organisation. Rather than giving this up as a bad job, he goes right ahead, and the way he goes about it is entertaining and gripping.
The book is told from the perspective of different characters, and goes back and forth in time: for example, we follow the hoodlum's story as he moves into a temporary hotel room, hires a prostitute, and then wakes in the middle of the night to see Parker climbing into his hotel-room, bent on revenge; then the scene changes and we're taken back a few days to see the events leading up to this point from Parker's point of view. Some of this felt a little clumsy but I think on the whole it made the book more interesting.
I can't really imagine how this level of ferocity could be sustained for another twenty books, but I'll definitely be reading more.
Completed : 07-May-2007