Monday, 8 February 2010

The Hunter – Richard Stark

First, I think David Drummond did a great design job for The University of Chicago Press’s reprint of three Parker novels. This one, especially, captures the spirit of graphic art in the 50s and early-60s.
   You may have seen the film, Point Blank, starring Lee Marvin, which is a hardboiled classic. And this, I must say, is a mental novel (they can use that quote on the next reprint if they want). 
   There’s only one story and that is revenge, with few deviations along the way other than to interrogate those who can help Parker do what he must. We get some insight to his victim’s life, which is seedy and desperately aspirational, but the whole thing is about the hunter, doing his hunting.
   An unintentionally hilarious line appears on the first page, where we discover that ‘office women in passing cars looked at him (Parker) and felt vibrations above their nylons’ – eh? Those office women...they all secretly want a night with Parker. They knew he was a bastard and they still shivered ‘Because they knew how he would fall on a woman in the night. Like a tree.’ What? I’ll leave the dubious sexual politics alone from now on.
   Parker’s a brute, an invincible brute with no past and one dimension to his character – brutal. This lack of depth is supposed to be a bad thing in an author’s creation. I know because I’ve read a lot of ‘How To’ books about writing. Still, that hasn’t stopped the great hardboiled novels of last century being just that. If anything, the lack of detailed characterisation increases their appeal for me. I really don’t care where these desperate men came from, how they were raised, what shaped them etc. All that emotional, character-building, fleshing out of the central character is for office women – huh. Besides, Stark doesn’t have a heart and he’s not mere flesh and bone, he’s steel. He has big hands and uses them as a killer robot would, if it had hands. The book reads as if it was written by a robot. It’s clinical, or to put it more kindly, ‘polished’, as the blurb says. As polished as Parker’s brass balls, you might say, although he isn’t about to bargain with anyone.
   OK, perhaps the hunter, as ‘How To’ books often suggest, should show some vulnerability, or encounter a massive setback to his goal (more novel-by-numbers advice, folks). And there’s no doubt that a major hurdle or life-threatening situation would enhance this novel. But what the hell, you just know Parker is invincible and that fact didn’t deter me from following him through to his final act of revenge.


  1. I love the Parker novels. Read 'The Score' recently in a one day sitting; it was just marvellous entertainment. Stark/Westlake is up there on the top shelf of crime writers, no doubt about it.

  2. I tried reading one other years ago, but didn't finish it. Can't recall the title. 'The Hunter' hasn't left me gasping for more, but it is distinctive. I still think there's something strange about this book. Perhaps I'm alone in that opinion. There's a thin line between genius and nonsense, eh? I've put it on the second shelf of my bookcase.

  3. yeah, but you've got a big bookcase :)

  4. That's a euphemism amongst keen readers, isn't it?


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