Author Rating: A+

Hard crime thrillers written by Donald E. Westlake under the pseudonym (Richard Stark.” All are recommended. Those I have read are so indicated.

* The Hunter (read 7/10/09)

Holy smokes! The Hunter (1962) was Westlake’s first hard crime novel published under the pseudonym Richard Stark and is the first of many featuring thief and all-around tough guy Parker. It was made into a movie in 1967 titled Point Blank, directed by John Boorman and starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson and Keenan Wynn which I haven’t yet watched, but the book is brilliantly done, full of action and suspense. The Parker novels written in the ’90s are not nearly as violent and corpse-strewn as the early ones from the ’60s.

Mal Resnick, one of the guys working a heist with Parker, pulls a double-cross and steals Parker’s woman, leaving him for dead, so Parker has to make things right.

* The Man With the Getaway Face (read 7/12/09)

Picks up where The Hunter left off. Parker has had plastic surgery to make him unrecognizable but the Mob — calling themselves “The Outfit,” have tracked him down and set a hitman on him. Having earlier lost the recovered $45,000 stolen by Resnick in The Hunter, Parker agrees to take part in an armored-car heist. While setting up and executing the heist, Parker has to deal with Stubbs, the former chauffeur of the doctor who gave Parker a new face, who is looking for which of the doctor’s last four patients killed him, as well as work around another double-cross by one of his companions.

* The Outfit (read 7/14/09)

The third Parker novel, published in 1963, picks up where we left off in The Man With The Getaway Face. The heist a success and the doctor’s murderer found and dealt with, Parker turns his sights back to The Outfit. Parker is David to The Outfit’s Goliath and pulls out all the stops to force them to lay off him. Parker is implacable and inexorable.

* The Mourner

* The Score (Parker and Grofield) (read 8/09)

* The Jugger (read 8/09)

* The Seventh

* The Handle (Parker and Grofield)

* The Damsel (Grofield)

* The Rare Coin Score

* The Green Eagle Score (read 8/09)

* The Dame (Grofield) (read 8/09)

* The Black Ice Score (read 8/09)

* The Sour Lemon Score

* Deadly Edge

* The Blackbird (Grofield)

* Slayground (read 8/09)

Parker and some of his pals, including Grofield, heist an armored car but run into some trouble as they’re getting away. Parker winds up in a closed amusement park with the bag of money and a bunch of mobsters and cops who want him dead. After leading his pursuers on a chase through the park, he gets away but has to leave the money hidden in a fun house.

* Lemons Never Lie (Grofield) (read 8/08)

* Plunder Squad

* Butcher’s Moon (Parker and Grofield) (read 11/8/09)

This is the last Parker novel (published in 1974) until 1997 when Westlake revived Richard Stark for another run, and it is phenomenal!

You don’t want to piss off Parker, or steal from him. Parker goes back to the amusement park where he left the loot in Slayground but it’s not there, so he pays a visit to the top mobster in town and tells him to give it back. Lozini says he doesn’t have it but Parker knows someone in the organization took it and uncovers a scheme to unseat Lozini which has been partly funded with Parker’s loot. When the mobsters refuse to give him his money and shoot Grofield in a double-cross, Parker calls in some of his pals for a night of mayhem in which five or six mob businesses are robbed. The $250,000 take is the payoff for the gang assisting Parker in rescuing the badly injured Grofield who is being kept alive as a bargaining chip and teaching the mobsters a lesson they will never forget.

This is Westlake at his best.

* Comeback (read 8/08)

* Backflash (read 8/08)

* Flashfire (read 8/08)

* Firebreak (read 8/08)

* Breakout

* Nobody Runs Forever (read 8/08)

* Ask The Parrot

* Dirty Money (read 5/5/09)

The money has already been stolen (Nobody Runs Forever) but it’s very hot and Parker and his crew have to retrieve it from the location where it was hidden and try to unload it. This is the last Parker novel as Donald E. Westlake died December 31, 2008.

For excellent coverage of the novels of Richard Stark, be sure to visit The Violent World of Parker.