The Hunter, last August and found it to be right up my crime alley.
Since the events of The Hunter, where Parker claimed some past-due cash from a powerful nation-wide crime syndicate, he's changed his face and his name, hoping to live out his days soaked in liquor, with the company of a fine woman, but when The Outfit makes an attempt on his life, Parker realizes his cover is blown and it's time to get even.
Of course when Parker "gets even" it really means that he really and truly fucks some shit up.
Parker decides that if The Outfit is gonna try to take him down, then he's gonna take down The Outfit, or at least their boss. To go about this, he enlists the help of some friends. In Parker's line of business his "friends" tend to be fellow criminals, so with a few letters he's got people across the country hitting The Outfit with heist after heist, leaving the mobsters reeling. The chaos created by the heists presents Parker with a golden opportunity to teach The Outfit a deadly lesson.
The Outfit is one extremely fun novel to read. I think I devoured this one in about three sittings. Once the ball gets rolling and Stark describes some of the heists that get put on various parts of The Outfit's many illicit sources of income, I couldn't put this book down. What really sucked me in was the art of each heist. The people pulling off the heists are professional criminals, and they handled their jobs like pros: nice and clean. I really enjoyed reading how they planned out the job, and carried it out. The descriptions of how the illegal rackets functioned, and the way they were so professionally knocked off made me wonder if Stark had a past life in organized crime. That sense of realism is what makes these Parker books so great for me; I feel like I'm getting an insider look at the crime underworld.
Not only are the exploits of Parker a hell of a lot of fun to read, but it should be noted that Richard Stark is a talented writer. He is a true stylist. He imparts an attitude and hard nosed demeanor to the novel which gives it a great gritty, noir feel. Style is something that is missing from a lot of author's repertoires these days so it is nice to read something by a master of style.
Though the Parker stories are sequential, I don't feel like I missed too much by skipping over the second novel a jumping right into the third. Stark provides a nice, short description of the pertinent events from the first two novels to catch a reader quickly up to speed with what has been going on with Stark. For that reason, I feel like you could get away with reading the Parker novels out of order and be more or less fine.
Thanks to these Parker novels, and some great crime comics I've been enjoying I find myself becoming more and more a fan of the crime genre. I love me a no nonsense hardboiled crime story, so if you are like me, (awesome), these Parker novels are great. Highly recommended.