Parker: The Hunter - New illustrated edition of the classic 1962 crime novel
Parker: The Hunter
by Richard Stark (author) and Darwyn Cooke (illustrator)
2014, 222 pages, 9.1 x 6 x 1.3 inches
$19 Buy a copy on Amazon
After reading Donald Westlake’s The Hot Rock (read my review), a humorous crime novel about a gang of professional thieves who repeatedly bungle a jewel heist, I picked up Westlake’s The Hunter, a much less funny, but equally enjoyable, 1962 novel about a sociopathic thief named Parker, who is the main character in many of Westlake’s crime stories. (Westlake wrote the Parker series under the pen name Richard Stark, one of many pen names he adopted during his prolific career.)
The Hunter is about Parker’s quest to get revenge on a partner who ripped him off and tried to have him killed right after Parker and his crew robbed a gang of arms smugglers. Parker doesn’t let anyone impede his mission, even if it means killing an innocent person who just happens to be in the way.
At one point while reading The Hunter, I contemplated abandoning it because I was bothered by Parker’s psychotic disregard for human life, but two reasons kept me going. One, the people that Parker is going after are even more despicably inhuman than he is. And two, Westlake is such a terrific writer I couldn’t stop myself from reading to find out what happens.
Parker fits in with the recent crop of charismatic sociopaths that headline shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Mad Men, and Dexter. I guess their appeal is that even though they are awful people, they have just enough humanity to make you care what happens to them without actually rooting for them. It takes a skilled writer to create bad people that you care about, and Westlake is one of the greats.
This new edition is illustrated by Darwyn Cooke, a talented cartoonist who has been creating outstanding graphic novel adaptations of Stark’s Hunter series. – Mark Frauenfelder
August 8, 2014
Looks like Cooke designed the whole book!
“Yo! You’re my dope dealer not my thesis adviser. If I wanted your opinion about my dissertation, I’d have asked for it, Motherfucker!”
― Mark Leyner, The Tetherballs of Bougainville
Happy Birthday Chester Himes! One of the more incredible and under-appreciated crime fiction writers who has contributed to the larger canon of the noir world, Himes’ work began in the 1940s and directly addressed race issues with honesty and blunt literary skill. Moving to Paris later, his work only continued to grow, enriching the genre with his detectives and autobiographical work. If you haven’t taken the chance to pick some of his work up, now’s the time! Plus…hello, he likes cats!
Chester Himes’ crime novels are great!
And with the arrival of this, I have - quite completely - geeked out. An UFA exhibitors book for the 1924-1925 season, announcing Fritz Lang’s film METROPOLIS as being in production. An extremely early and notably rare item, featuring crude concept art by Otto Hunte, who was responsible for both artistic and technical direction for the film, as well as the overall plan for the city structures. The film did not premiere until 11 January, 1927, a simultaneous release at the UFA Palast am Zoo and the UFA Pavillon am Nollendorfplatz. Nearly all of the ephemera we’ve seen or handled produced for the film has been from late 1926, and 1927 or later. Another superb addition to our growing collection of Metropolis material.
Yes. I’ve reached an entirely new plane of biblio-geekery.
W O W
Finished it this morning. The detective or mystery plots of Chandler's novels (distinct from their other workings) are so complicated and overdone that I find myself forgetting to care why, where or to whom something happened. Contrast this with Marlowe's often very serious attention to the details of a case and there's this weird disconnect for me as a reader. Yes, yes, he's the hired gun with the heart of gold. I get that, but I also get lost in all the things I'm supposed to remember to care about.
But that’s not all for The High Window. Chandler inhabits his settings. You are there in Los Angeles, in the early years of the Second World War. He is in neighborhood high and low, downtown and the desert, rundown apartments and high-toned mansions. He has the ability to make you feel the effects of place. His client’s home is stifling, closed-up and suffocating. It’s metaphorical, but it’s palpable too. You feel the unpleasantness of the setting and the relief of moving air driving home afterwards.
The dialogue can seem dated at times, but Chandler's better than most writers (mystery or otherwise) at keeping the patter snappy and succinct. There's some slang that might be unclear, but it doesn't seem past as much as it seems unfamiliar. You just might not have heard it before.
Like the two novels before it (The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely) The High Window is assembled from short stories written for pulp magazines. But it’s leading to The Long Goodbye, Chandler’s most sustained attempt at a detective novel about the detective instead of the detecting. The High Window has plenty of introspection in quiet and solitary moments, and a number of scenes in which Marlowe demonstrates dedication to his principles no matter what the cost. The Long Goodbye is about Marlowe having to do all the right things (his definition of right) for his own reasons, and to be satisfied with that alone. The opening piece, in which he recalls meeting Terry Lennox and then eventually sends him off (maybe fifty pages?) is some of the best writing I’ve ever read, by Chandler or anyone else. It’s helped by an underlying tension: is there going to be a mystery to solve or what? where’s this going? It’s almost better if you read it expecting a typical detective story. Because you’ll be surprised by how much it exceeds those expectations.
There’s also a scene in The Long Goodbye (I just remembered) by a hotel pool that is perfectly composed, and might be the best introduction to both Marlowe and Chandler.
OK, I finished The Long Goodbye yesterday, so couple thoughts. What really strikes me about it is that while it’s really long (379 pages in paper), it’s very well-paced. I’m reading the beautiful Everyman’s Library edition (got it from the library) so had read The Little Sister just previously, and TLS despite being much shorter was actually kind of hard to follow plot-wise, whereas TLG had fewer characters and a fairly linear plot. (Which Marlowe helpfully but not intrusively recaps for us the reader several times.)
(More to come, including some awesome quotes!!)
(Wade/ Lennox/ Marlowe - Loring quotes/ chauffeur Eliot/ Potter rant)
Another in the exciting series of “Armed Librarians”. A demurely Tarantinoesque State Library of Victoria staff member holds Ned Kelly’s pistols, probably in the early 1960s. Check out those fingernails! Taken by an Argus newspaper photographer.
Stencil Republic – Beyond Banksy: The international allure of stencil art
by Oliver Walker and Margherita Dessanay
Laurence King Publishing
2012, 90 pages, 9.7 x 9.8 x 0.6 inches (paperback)
$21 Buy a copy on Amazon
You could rip out any of the 20 laser-cut, brown-paper stencils that are bound on perforated pages from this follow-up of The Stencil Street Art Book, and then take to the streets of your hometown armed with a can of spray paint, but then you’d just have another pretty picture book about art. Not that said pictures and their accompanying words don’t matter: Margherita Dessanay’s thumbnail sketches of international street artists such as Bs.as.stncl (Buenos Aires), Chris Stain (Baltimore), Dan Innes (Brighton), Ozi, (Sao Paulo), and Sten Lex (Rome) are as spontaneous and impactful as graffiti itself, and the slightly longer interview with self-described “human printer” Hugo Kaagman (aka Stencil King) will make you want to visit Amsterdam for more than just the weed. – Ben Marks
June 23, 2014