Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Hunter by Richard Stark

Simple prose, fast story, and ruthless characters. These are the things that bring The Hunter to life. Written in 1962 under Donald E. Westlake's famous pen name Richard Stark, The Hunter was the first book in the Parker series and it is for good reason that the man called Parker kept returning. Parker is cold and calculating. He murders people if he has to. He beats women if he has to. And he'll commit robbery when he has to. Basically, he's the ultimate badass antihero. How could you not love him? 

But this first book in the Parker series if sort of ironic in that it isn't really about a robbery or a "job" at first. In fact, the story takes place after a job has already taken place. We start off with Parker walking across a bridge, looking for banks that might be able to give him some dough. But this cash he's looking for is really just a means to finding a guy named Mal Resnick. Parker's tale is one of revenge and not money. Not at first, anyway. Parker wants to kill Mal with his bare hands and he'll kill anyone who gets in his way. 

The second act becomes an impossible quest as Parker seeks to take $45,000 from the crime syndicate called "the Outfit" that Mal had originally stolen from Parker. 

It's a very short read and a little bit different from the film adaptation Payback starring Mel Gibson as the stand-in for Parker (Westlake was against anyone using the Parker name unless there was a series created). Of course, there are two versions of Payback (a director's cut and a theatrical cut) and I've heard they are vastly different. I've only seen the theatrical version and it's quite a bit different from the book. Mostly, the latter half where Mel Gibson gets tortured and all that. And Mel Gibson's character is a little too much of a nice guy to be the real Parker. If the director's cut is any different I'll let you know when I watch it. I'll compare both versions in a later post. 

There was also an adaptation called Point Blank that came out in 1967 and starred Lee Marvin as another stand-in for Parker. I've never seen that version so I don't know how good it is. I've heard a lot of good things, though. 

There's even a graphic novel version out there, I believe. 

I just know that this book kicks ass (regardless of how old it is) and it won't be long until I return to the world of Parker with the second book in the Parker series, The Man with the Getaway Face

P.S. - Originally, this book was meant to be a stand-alone novel, but Westlake was asked by his editor to re-write in order to make it a series. Westlake put out 23 Parker books 46 years. 

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