Book Report: Flashfire by Richard Stark (2000)

Book coverSure, read a Parker book earlier this year and another one this year, and suddenly I fancy myself some sort of Parker expert, capable of passing judgment on Parker books and the series or making sweeping statements about it. But it’s my blog, and I’m going to anyway.

This Parker seems a little less cold-blooded than the old ones.

The earlier book I read, The Handle, was published in the 1960s, and the series started then and ran until 1974. After that, it lay fallow until resuming in 1997, 25 years later, around the time the film Payback went into production. In the big screen film treatment, Parker has a relationship with a woman (not just a woman, but a woman who looks like Maria Bello), so maybe this book plays off of that, since Parker has a woman in it, too. Of course, I’ve read two Parker books from 36 years apart. Maybe at some point in the earlier novels he began his change and I’m late to the party.

At any rate, Parker gets stiffed in a job and tracks down the guys who took his money as seed money for a heist. This one takes place in Florida, so it brought to mind some of the John D. MacDonald work along with the Carl Hiaasen and the other Florida partisans. It occurs to me that Florida, as a location, matches LA, San Francisco, and New York City as far as the place that is consistently presented as a sort of character. Stark gets this one mostly right, although he talks about West Palm Beach as a lesser light than Palm Beach, and from what I remember in my visits, West Palm is kinda nice, too, relative to everything else. But I might be mistaken.

I almost started the second paragraph in a row with “At any rate….”, but I’m going to break that off. The book doesn’t hang together as a whole very well–some parts are episodic and detached from the main plot a bit, and Stark shifts viewpoints a bit to no great meaning to the story. He was dashing these books off against his other prodigious output. It’s still good enough reading. I’ll continue to keep my eye out for cheap Stark books.

Oh, and apparently this book has been turned into a Jason Statham movie, Parker, scheduled for release in January. Perhaps I’ll go see that. The fact that the film has the name Parker in it might indicate that sequels will be forthcoming. Donald Westlake (Richard Stark) had allowed film treatments of the books, but only if they changed the names unless they were going to make a film series. The fact that the movie is named Parker might mean sequels, or it just might be because Westlake passed away and his heirs are not so demanding.

Books mentioned in this review: