Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Slay-Ground by Richard Stark

Slay-Ground by Richard Stark
Berkley, Copyright 1971

The widely popular Parker books are the real deal. I have yet to find one that is not excellent and it's easy to see why this series has a worldwide following. Great writing, great character and well-written plots; this one has it all.

Parker of course is the anti-hero/thief created by Donald Westlake using the pseudo name of Richard Stark.

“Tommy was out of the building by now, and spreading the alarm. But that hardly mattered. It was a new ball game. Parker had a gun.”

Just finished "Slay-Ground" and though it is very good, when compared to others in the series it may be my least favorite. Starts off fast and violent like all the books; with Parker, Grofield and Lauffman pulling of an armored car robbery. There is a chase, they crash and Parker takes the cash and gets out fast. He ends up hiding out in an amusement park which is closed for the winter and that's were the rest of the story takes place. The local mob discovers he is hiding there and seals the place off, trapping him inside. The mob with the help of two corrupt cops, plan to kill Parker and take the loot. He is left to figure a way to outsmart them and escape with the cash.

The strength of the series is the Parker character and the violence he gets involved with in the novels. This one provides plenty of that. But being trapped in the amusement park for the whole novel, took him away from what I liked best about the character. Which is Parker interfacing with others, especially his crime partners. He seemed out of his element and that made the story a little awkward. The idea of being caged and alone was good, but not for the whole novel. Excellent in other ways though. Nice fast start and Parker figures some neat ways to eliminate his opponents one-by-one. He uses the tools on hand with the results always violent. Also, fairly good ending involving his escape. It is still a very enjoyable Parker novel as all of them are, but I found this one a bit off track when compared to the other Parker books.

But still one of the best crime series ever authored.

For more on the man see the website:


Anonymous said...

I agree-- this is one of the least stellar Parkers. Gripping and readable, just a notch below what the reader might expect from the series.
The scene that really struck me as soft was the one in which Parker sits among mannikins on a carnival ride, trying to blend in. The crooks searching for him crack wise about how he'd never pull a stunt like that, something right out of an old Bob Hope movie, yet that's just what he's doing. That snapped me out of the novel's flow unlike anything in any Westlake novel I've read.
It is odd when a series is so consistently excellent, so hypnotically readable, that a little thing like that might seem worthy of note.
This might be the best crime fiction series of all. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd go for the 7th one, entitled, appropriately enough, The Seventh.


Randy Johnson said...

I've loved the Parker series since I discovered it at the time of the Gibson version of The Hunter. I've found them all but Butcher's Moon(a used copy is a little pricey for me).

August West said...

John is right. This series was so good, it's tough to pick out the best one. Going with favorites-mine is "The Outfit" I remember in one novel he was real cold-blooded and killed a woman that lived next door-it might of been "The Jugger."
(but I might be wrong on that) Anyway, it really was something to read.

Anonymous said...

Hey Randy, I just zipped over to abebooks to find cheap copies of Butcher's Moon with the intent of chiding you to buy one.
Well now. Seems I can't do that.
I had no clue the book was so pricey these days.
Glad I bought one all those years ago.
Keep hunting and you'll eventually dig it up.


OlmanFeelyus said...

This was the first Parker book I ever read and it blew my mind. What is important about it is it sets up the scenario for Butcher's Moon, which if you haven't read yet, you really must. It tears the roof off.