Tag Archives: Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark

Cover reveal for the re-release of Gunshine State

Here’s the new cover for the re-lease of my second novel, Gunshine State, which will be dropping from Down and Out Books in February 2018.

I hope you like it as much as I do.

Gunshine State found itself without a home when its original publisher, 280 Steps, closed shop earlier this year. I am eternally grateful to Eric Campbell and the gang at Down and Out for giving the book a second chance.

Gunshine State is a heist thriller set in Queensland, Melbourne and Thailand. Think Richard Stark’s Parker, Garry Disher’s Wyatt, and Wallace Stroby’s Crissa Stone. Add a touch of Surfers Paradise sleaze and a very dangerous stopover in Asia.

Gary Chance is a former Australian army driver, ex-bouncer and thief. His latest job sees him in Queensland working for Dennis Curry, an aging Surfers Paradise standover man. Curry runs off-site, non-casino poker games, and wants to rob one of his best customers, a high roller called Frederick ‘Freddie’ Gao. While the job may seem straightforward, Curry’s crew is anything but. Frank Dormer is a secretive former Australian soldier turned private security contractor. Sophia Lekakis is a highly-strung receptionist at the hotel where Gao stays when he visits Surfers. Amber is Curry’s attractive female housemate and part of the lure for Gao.… Read more

Thoughts on Point Blank at 50

Point Blank premiered in San Francisco on August 30 1967. Critically overlooked at the time, its launched John Boorman’s Hollywood directorial career, became a cult hit and has had an enduring influence on crime cinema. It is a film I have watched on numerous occasions and each time it yields new insights. The 50th anniversary is an opportune time for a few thoughts about its importance.

Point Blank was loosely based the 1962 novel, The Hunter, the first in the series of books by the late Donald Westlake, writing as Richard Stark, about the master thief, Parker. It opens with Walker, as the Parker character is called, played by Lee Marvin, double-crossed and left for dead by his friend, Mal (John Vernon), and wife, Lynne (Sharon Acker), with whom Mal was having an affair, after the three of them have heisted a regular money drop on the prison island of Alcatraz by a powerful criminal network, the Organisation. Walker, somehow, survives his wounds and manages to get off the island. He reappears and proceeds to tear Organisation apart to find Mal and get his share from the heist, the amount of $94,000. He is assisted by a mysterious man, Yorst (Keenan Wynn), who at first comes across as a cop, but is eventually revealed as a senior member of the Organisation, who sees in Walker a means to eliminate his internal competitors.… Read more

The heist always goes wrong, part 3: 10 of the best heist films you’ve never seen

payroll-1961As readers of this site know, I love a good heist film, the ingenuity of their plots and the variations they come in, whether it be the all star team assembled for the job of a life time or a group of desperate men and women trying for one last big score.

Everyone can name their favourite heist films and, for the most part, it is usually the big name titles such as The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) and the French classic, Rififi (1955). Indeed, I listed these and many other well know heist movies in previous posts on this site, ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made’ and ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 2: reader picks and other favourite heist movies’.

But what about the lessor known heist films that are great but which nobody knows about?

To celebrate the release of my second crime novel, Gunshine State, I have compiled the following list of the 10 best heist films you’ve never seen.

operation-amsterdam-poster

Operation Amsterdam (1959)

Operation Amsterdam functions as both a war and a heist film. Peter Finch plays Jan Smit, a British intelligence officer ordered to infiltrate the city of Amsterdam, which is on the verge of being overrun by invading German forces, and prevent the city’s diamond reserves from falling into Nazi hands.… Read more

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