Tag Archives: Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark

Pulp Friday: The Smashers

The smashers“A novel of The Organisation – girls, horses, dope, murder.”

Regular readers will be familiar by now with my admiration for the late Donald Westlake. Westlake was the hard boiled writer’s hard-boiled crime writer, having penned numerous books over his career, including the wonderful Parker novels under the pseudonym of Richard Stark.

Today’s Pulp Friday is one of Westlake’s early efforts, The Smashers, aka The Cutie, aka The Mercenaries. This edition is the first Dell publication in 1960.

The Smashers was Westlake’s official fiction debut under his real name. His previous fiction efforts, like those of his peer Lawrence Block, were soft porn paperbacks written under other names (here’s a nice post on one of these titles Back Stage Love – “The Shocking expose of what goes on behind the scenes at a summer stock theatre”).

The Smashers is the story of Clay, the right hand man of New York mob boss Ed Ganolese. Clay gets a late night call from a junkie with a dead woman on his hands and the police on his tail. The junkie claims he’s innocent and because he’s connected to Ganolese, Clay has to adopt the role of a PI and find out who the real killer is.

It’s an early and interesting take on the criminal as protagonist that Westlake was subsequently to perfect with his Parker books.… Read more

The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made

asphalt01I love a good heist film.

I love the genius and intricacy of their plots and the variations they come in, whether it be the all star team assembled for a job or the desperate ex-cons trying for one last score.

But most of all I love them because of the golden rule of all good heist films – for whatever reason, the heist always goes wrong.

What do you need for a good heist?

You need a plan for actual heist itself, the getaway, and moving, storing and fencing whatever it is you’ve stolen. The more complicated the plan, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.

You need a crew of people; one man or woman alone cannot do a heist. This introduces the human element and all the problems that come with it, the greed, suspicions, jealousies and uncertainties.

I’ve been thinking for a while now about what my top ten-heist films would be and the following list, in no particular order, is it.

The robbery itself is almost immaterial to how I rate a good heist film. What I like is the context and atmosphere in which the heist takes place and inevitable problems that arise after it’s been pulled off. And the darker and more broken things get, the better the film is in my book.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Parker

Today’s Pulp Friday is a selection of books by one of my favourite authors, Richard Stark AKA the late Donald Westlake.

Regular readers of Pulp Curry will know that my love of Westlake and his creation, the professional thief Parker, particularly his pre-1974 incarnation, knows no bounds.

I’ve been keen for a while now to share some of my collection of Parker covers. The impetus for finally getting my act together is two fold.

First, I recently picked up a cheap copy of the very rare 1977 Coronet Books edition of Butcher’s Moon and I wanted it show it off. It’s got a great early seventies feel.

Second, I’ve been re-reading one of the earlier Parker books, The Black Ice Score. The cover of the 1986 Allison and Busby edition is among those below “Stealing the Africans’ diamonds back appeals to the arch pro in Parker. But the opposition’s clumsy double cross activates the mean machine”.

Actually, re-reading is not quite accurate. I started it years ago but never finished. The story didn’t particularly appeal to me at the time and I’ve since talked to many people who believe it is one of Westlake’s lessor Parker efforts.

But I’m enjoying it this time around. Parker gets involved in a diamond heist being staged by a group of Africans who want to use the proceeds to overthrow their country’s corrupt ruler.… Read more

Crime fiction criminals

By definition, the majority of crime fiction characters are criminals or at least commit illegal and/or immoral acts. But books where the main character is a full-time professional criminal are surprisingly few and far between. Here’s a selection of some of the best.

It’s worth noting that when this post originally appeared on the Crime Fiction Lover website, readers came up with several good additions, including Andrew Vachss’s Burke, Charlie Huston’s Henry Thornton, Lawrence Block’s hitman character Keller and Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley. I had originally thought of including the James Ellroy character Dudley Smith (“Knock, knock, who’s there, Dudley Smith, so reds beware”), but he’s a bent cop so not eligible. However, Ellroy’s Pete Bondurant would definitely make the cut.

Please leave a comment if you can think of any others.

Parker by Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake)

The 24 books written between 1962 and 2010 featuring the professional thief known as Parker remain some of the best crime fiction ever written. Sixteen Parker novels appeared between 1962 and 1974. Westlake took a rest from the character until 1997, then wrote another eight Parker books.

Parker is a career criminal who steals things for a living. Get in his way on a job or try to double cross him afterwards and he’ll hurt you.… Read more

Pulp Friday: double shot of Gil Brewer

“She lit a fuse inside men.”

Last time I featured Gil Brewer on Pulp Friday, it resulted in a spirited Twitter discussion as to who was the quintessential hard-boiled pulp author, Brewer or Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark.

Personally, my votes goes to Westlake/Stark on account of his Parker books.

But I do love Brewer’s sleazy psychological take on pulp fiction. He’s also a case of life imitating art. He died in 1983, after years of alcoholism, mental health problems and financial stress. And Like most of the most accomplished pulp novelists, he only gained critical attention well after his death.

Both the titles featured today were published by Monarch Books, based in Derby, Connecticut, Play It Hard in 1964 and Wild To Possess (“She lit a fuse inside men”) in 1963.

It looks like Brewer was in good company in the Monarch stable of pulp writers. As the advertisement on the inside back cover of Wild To Possess states, you could buy these two Brewer titles and three other Monarch pulps for just $1.50. That’s value, especially given that among the titles to choose from were The Key Game “A fast moving exhilarating story of emotional fadism among uninhibited married couples”, and The Lolita Lovers,  a “dramatic novel of the ‘beat’ generation living and loving by thir own rules in a teeming asphalt jungle”.… Read more