The Hunter by Richard Stark

“’I’m going to drink his blood, I’m going to chew up his heart and spit it into the gutter for the dogs to raise a leg at. I’m going to peel the skin off him and rip out his veins and hang him with them.’”

If Raymond Chandler invented the hardboiled genre, Richard Stark perfected it.

From the opening line, we learn that this is a character story like all great pieces of hardboiled.

“When a fresh-faced guy in a Chevy offered him a lift, Parker told him to go to hell.”

Further on, Stark has a powerful ability with similes, using them to pepper the narrative in context of simpler sentences. And yes, the prose can be very simplistic at time, more tell than show, but it moves the pace along very quickly. More importantly, it fits the taciturn lifestyle that our man Parker inhibits.

As expected, this is a dark story. People are beaten and bruised, men are strangled to death, and killed off without a thought in the world.

But thankfully, Stark shows us a different kind of darkness. The movement of Grimdark has reveled in blood, guts, and profanity. This novel has none of that, save a few instances of curse words.

It shows that you can make a really good, dark book without all the cliché trappings of today’s society.

Not to begin sounding like a Victorian prude, but the lack of above was astounding. Even Chandler’s book, which was from thirty years prior, had more cussing and blood all over the pages than this talented writer.

“On the third floor were the permanents, Mal Resnick and the other New York workers who had chosen to live here where questions were never asked because the answers were already known.”

The usage of Acts clearly distinguishes the important events of the story, skipping from one POV to the next, adding tension and sheer fun to the narrative.

Characters aren’t all that amazing, though. While this is a character driven story, the supporting cast does little to help Parker. But at this anti-hero does the novel really shine.

Parker is a very compelling character, a brutally single-minded man on a mission. When you see him walking down the street, move over. He’s a professional criminal, a heister, a hater of organized crime.

“You don’t see them, but they see you.”

Parker is probably one of the best examples of what a true anti-hero should be. There’s a little bit of good left in him, even if he doesn’t realize it. But the bigger part of his study is focused in the idea of motivation by personal gain. This is a revenge story, and Parker just wants his money back from the bad business. Maybe kill some people that wronged him along the way. Maybe take down a whole syndicate.

But it is from this almost religious devotion to see the task through do we have a very brilliant entity as to what an anti-hero should be.

While it may have been written in a time after the famed gangsters of Prohibition, Richard Stark’s Parker shows us that the criminal age was still beating on into the later years after the War.

As long as you don’t mess with him, he won’t mess with you. Unless it’s business. Then you just might get your Made in Japan frog stolen.

Rating: 8/10

2 thoughts on “The Hunter by Richard Stark

  1. “Richard Stark” was the pen name of Donald Westlake, who wrote dozens of comic crime novels under his own name, including the popular Dortmunder series. Very different in mood and tone, but also very good and very tightly plotted novels.

    • I knew that was his pen name but didn’t know that he wrote comics. Might need to check them out.

      I really enjoyed the tight plotting of this novel; the pacing was very strong.

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