Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Hunter

There are few things I love more then Crime Fiction. There are few things in that genre that I love more then the great Don Westlake’s Parker novels. Written under the pseudonym Richard Stark and spanning twenty four novels, the series follows professional thief Parker from job to job.

The books themselves vary little, most follow a pretty set formula Where in, A) Parker takes a job. B) Some poor fool crosses him. C) We follow said poor fool as we watch him try to escape from Parker’s wrath. D) The Poor Son Of Bitch Thinks he’s escaped Parker’s wrath. E) He finds out he hasn’t. F) We double back in time with Parker to find out just how he found the poor fool and how he’s going to make the poor fool wish he’d never been born.

What makes The Parker books unique, is their utter lack of sentimentality. Parker is not a thief with a heart of gold, not even remotely. He’s a cold, mean and often times pure nasty son of a bitch, who extracts vengeance like someone pulling out teeth with a claw hammer.

Parker at the core of his character is simply someone who doesn’t give a fuck. He’s like Tom Ripley without delusions of grandeur. He will straight up murder you and your family. Not because he hates you, not because you made him mad, not because he’s crazy but because he’s a professional thief with no delusions about what he does, and if you need to die so he can do what he does, well that’s a price he’s more then willing to pay.

How cold is he? Upon finding his wife’s dead body he expresses his grief by carving up her face so the police can’t put her picture in the paper and then dumping her body in the park. Just so his quarry won’t know he’s coming.

Based on the first novel in the series, Darwyn Cooke’s The Hunter, his retelling of the first Parker story, ends up being as perfect of an adaptation as Parker is ever going to have. Cooke’s retro style and clean line drawn artwork ends up being the perfect conduit for Stark’s efficient, clean, hard prose, and dark pitiless storytelling. There are sequences here, like Parker's wordless entry into New York, that are done so perfectly they almost hurt.

The first book starts with Parker gunning for revenge. Betrayed and left for dead by his partner and spouse, Parker decides to get some good ole fashioned vengeance, even if he has to kill half of the gangsters in New York to get it.

As he did in his seminal New Frontier, Cooke art perfectly captures the time period. It’s not just set in the early sixties, it looks like it was made then. With it’s overripe dames, hard cut men, and purty purty style The Hunter manages to look like something that escaped from Mad Men’s raging id. The warmth of the retro style is perfectly off set by Starks cold merciless story which Cooke perserve’s perfectly. The last thing you see in the book is Parker’s cold unforgiving eyes staring out from the back of the book, announcing the next chapter is coming out in a year. I can hardly wait.

An old favorite is all well and good, something that lets you look at an old favorite as though it’s the first time is something to be truly cherished.

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