Books by Richard Stark

DIRTY MONEY by Richard Stark
Released: April 23, 2008

"Stark, Donald E. Westlake's more bad-tempered alter ego, breaks his usual rule and gives women—ballsy Sandra and dispassionate Claire—major roles. Not that Parker takes a back seat for a minute. The man is fiercely conceived, one mean piece of work."
Parker, the world's most ruthless noir anti-hero, engineers a bank withdrawal. Read full book review >
ASK THE PARROT by Richard Stark
Released: Nov. 23, 2006

"Stark, Donald E. Westlake's more menacing alter ego, flaunts his usual wizardry as unobtrusively as if he were ordering from a fast-food menu. The plot is minimalist, the technique superb."
The perils of aiding, abetting and stalking a career criminal. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 23, 2004

"A little too much situational bumbling better suited to one of the Dortmunder plots of Stark's alter ego, Donald E. Westlake. Still, if you want to make a killing, Parker's your kind of guy."
Unrepentant antihero Parker (Breakout, 2002, etc.) breaks yet more laws. Read full book review >
BREAKOUT by Richard Stark
Released: Nov. 20, 2002

"Lots of carpentry and building razing: a sort of a breaking-and-entering manual for do-it-yourselfers. A minor but very readable effort from master craftsman Stark (Firebreak, 2001, etc.)."
When an attempt to lift generic pharmaceuticals from a warehouse goes belly-up, career criminal Ronald Kasper/Edward Johnson/Charles Willis/Edward Lynch/the indomitable Parker, world-class antihero, finds himself in Stoneveldt Prison, friendless and itchy to escape. After Ed Mackey, his pal on the outside, vets them as trustworthy, he settles on inmates Tom Marcantoni and Brandon Williams to effect a breakout and reluctantly agrees to Marcantoni's plan that once out, they'll stick around to rob the jewelry wholesaler plying his trade next to a dance studio in the basement of an old armory. With the sort of derring-do Stark and his alter ego Donald E. Westlake are infamous for, the trio, abetted by Mackey and his lover Brenda, are soon out of prison and tunneling into the jewelers. They fill their pockets and stash bags with loot, but on the way out, their tunnel collapses, claiming enough casualties to make Parker very curious about where another exit might be. Would you believe a call to a pizza parlor gets them out? Such are Stark/Westlake's skills that it's almost plausible, but there's still a catch. Poor Brenda's been railroaded into jail, and Mackey insists they spring her. More authorial sleight-of-hand eventually has Parker hitching his way back to upstate New York and into the arms of his beloved Claire with only three Patek Philippe watches to show for all his trouble. Read full book review >
FIREBREAK by Richard Stark
Released: Nov. 14, 2001

"Tough, taut, and sublimely bad-tempered. "
From the call to attention in the opening sentence ("When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man") to the decision on the last page that one more killing would be overkill, Parker, the poster boy for bad behavior, leads a nonexemplary life. He's agreed in his 24th outing (Flashfire, 2000, etc.) to participate with Frank Elkins, Ralph Wiss, and Larry Lloyd in their plans to burgle Paxton Marino's Montana hunting lodge and remove Grand Master paintings from its hidden art gallery. But first he has to find out who sent this morning's dead man after him. Indicators point to old foes Paul Brock and Matt Rosenstein, who with the help of one of Lloyd's ill-advised computer files have traced Parker to his friend Claire's upstate house. While Parker eliminates his potential eliminators, the art theft is put on hold, but not without incident. Lloyd's grip on reality is slipping and his potential for violence escalating, and Marino himself has attracted the attention of the ATF, the state troopers, and other itchy-fingered law-enforcers. Security gizmos are detonated; Ford Tauruses are stolen; bad guys come and worse guys go; and there are so many snafus that you'd be forgiven for thinking John Dortmunder, the accident-prone thief who headlines the comic capers Stark writes under his real name of Donald E. Westlake, was planning things—until the body count rises, and the impassive, nonchalantly brutal Parker hauls off the loot while the Feds et al. bury their dead. Read full book review >
FLASHFIRE by Richard Stark
Released: Nov. 21, 2000

Waiting for his new associates to divvy up the proceeds from a Nebraska bank heist with him, Parker, the toughest professional criminal not behind bars, learns there are no proceeds: The boys plan on using it to finance their next job—stealing 12 million dollars' worth of jewelry in Palm Beach. Is Parker in or out? Out, he says, and leaves broke, plotting their destruction. Looting his way cross-country, Parker has the bad luck to pick up new identity papers just in time to cross paths with another customer who wants all witnesses to his transaction dead. Parker enters Palm Beach as Daniel Parmitt with assassins dogging him. Using real-estate agent Leslie Mackenzie's information, Parker locates the Nebraska boys' mansion hideout and identifies the charity auction of the late Miriam Hope Clendon's jewelry collection as their target. Meanwhile, the killers catch up, drive him through the Everglades, and leave him for dead. Another assassin has a shot at him, but Parker lives on to hide in his former cohorts' mansion. Only now the boys have captured Leslie, the cops are closing in, and a final shootout leaves few standing, though Parker and the Snake City sheriff reaching a professional accommodation. Read full book review >
BACKFLASH by Richard Stark
Released: Oct. 7, 1998

When a road crash leaves Marshall Howell trapped in a wrecked getaway car, his partner, master thief Parker, has to decide whether or not to kill him before he skedaddles with their $140,000 haul. Since Howell's always played on the level with him, he doesn't, though somebody else does. Next thing Parker knows, he's being courted by retired state employee Hilliard Cathman, who claims he was about to set up Howell to rob a gambling ship cruising the Hudson, and wants to know if Parker might be interested in taking Howell's place. Apart from the bad omen, there's something about Cathman that Parker doesn't trust, but he goes ahead setting up the score: putting together a gang, arranging elaborate measures for getting the necessary weaponry past the ship's tight security and setting up separate escape routes for the robbers and the loot. It all seems too easy, and it is, since Ray Becker, the bent cop who killed Howell, knows about the job and is desperate to hijack the money. And he's not the only one. For all the freelance talent, though, this heist is a lot more routine than Parker's satisfyingly grim return last year in Comeback. Even so, Stark (a.k.a. Donald E. Westlake), like his outlaw hero, is never less than professional, and he supplies the fastest 300 pages you're likely to read this year. Read full book review >
COMEBACK by Richard Stark
Released: Oct. 16, 1997

Following in the footsteps of fellow-thief Bernie Rhodenbarr, Stark's hero Parker returns from a 20-year retirement in this taut caper, which begins with a routine $400,000 heist from the Reverend William Archibald's Christian Crusade (the inside man, Tom Carmody, is an angel who's gotten religion and thinks money is the root of the Rev.'s evil). The sequel would be routine, too, if Carmody hadn't told his girlfriend about the heist, and if the girlfriend hadn't told her none-too-bright kid brother, and if the brother hadn't told a couple of his lowlife friends, and if one of the original thieves hadn't decided he didn't want to split the take with the others, and if the nominal good guys—Archibald's semper fi security chief Dwayne Thorsen and sadistic local police detective Lew Calavecci—weren't a pair of borderline psychopaths. The high points are Parker's taking a bribe to look for the money he's stolen himself, and his trying to put out a fire by throwing a bullet-ridden body on it. But the real thrill is seeing Parker back in action again in a world where all the key players are so completely on the same wavelength that they know exactly what everybody else will do, and where each ruse and double-cross is good only till nightfall. If you're new to Stark's work, think of all the comic Dortmunder capers he's written under his real name—Donald E. Westlake—but with as baleful an absence of humor as in The Ax (p. 753). Read full book review >