The Hunter
January 26, 2013 1:47 PM   Subscribe

The many lives of Donald Westlake creator of noir antihero Parker. (Previously)
posted by Artw (17 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I was just saying, after seeing a TV ad, that there was no way that the movie "Parker" could be based on the Parker/Donald Westlake books, mostly because Jason Statham is pretty much the opposite of Parker, action-hero-wise. Guess I was wrong. Thanks, Hollywood, for ruining a great fictional character!
posted by Red Desk at 2:54 PM on January 26, 2013

The best visual adaptations of the Parker novels are unquestionably Darwyn Cooke's graphic novels, authorized by Westlake, based on three of the early books.

This. I highly, highly recommend these to anyone interested in crime, fiction, crime fiction, or beautiful pictures. They're just great.
posted by Rangeboy at 3:22 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Jason Statham is pretty much the opposite of Parker

I've always thought that if Statham quit trying to act, he would be the perfect Parker. At least Statham beats the hell out of Tom Cruise trying to be Jack Reacher.
posted by Ardiril at 3:38 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I bought an extra copy of Cooke's version of The Hunter so I could cut it up, mat, and frame certain panels.

Knife poised above the page, I couldn't bring myself to do it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:50 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I still need to read the Parker novels, but I first heard about them in Steven King's The Dark Half, which is basically about Donald Westlake being stalked by Parker.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:57 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Richard Stark novels are so pitch perfect. Dan Simmons emulating Stark ain't so bad either (Hard Case, etc.)
posted by O Blitiri at 5:15 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bah. Cooke's artwork is too cutesy and nostalgic for Parker.

I like the Dortmunder novels better anyway. Deadpan is an overused expression to describe comedy, but those really are deadpan: if you don't pay attention, you may not realise it is a comedy.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:49 AM on January 27, 2013

Fantastic Grantland article. Thanks for posting this, Artw.

MartinWisse - Hmmmm. I love the Dortmunder books too, and deadpan's a good description of them, but I'd say the fairly broad characterization of his crew (Tiny, Andy Kelp, & Murch) makes it pretty obvious pretty quickly that they're comic novels.

IMO, the Parker novels often have a certain level of . . . . I guess you'd call it "black humor." Parker's constant low-level exasperation with "ordinary" human foibles and interactions turns out to be entirely justified (at least in the context of the books) since his plans are so often derailed by other characters behaving in ways that only make sense to them, often because they either don't fully understand the situation, or because they're trying to force reality to conform to their fantasies without having the skills to make that actually happen.

Or to put it another way, the Dortmunder novels are the openly comic mirror of the Parker novels - Dortmunder often expresses a similar lack of understanding as to why "straight" citizens behave the way they do, but since they're comedies his reaction is befuddlement rather than Parker's impatience. But both series tend to work from a standpoint of, "This would be so easy and simple if these other idiots weren't doing idiotic things for idiotic reasons." The Parker tone is grim and violent and nihilistic, but the set-up is kind of inherently comic, so the contrast between Parker's ruthless efficiency and practicality and the other characters' unchecked desires and selfishness gains some comedic undertones.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:59 AM on January 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

What I like about Westlake's humor (and his writing in general) is that I never get the sense that he's trying to show me just how gosh darned clever he is. A professional, in other words, not a poseur.

Curiously, the Dortmunder books just haven't translated well onto the big screen. (Casting Robert Redford as Dortmunder when Zero Mostel was on hand can only make sense in Hollywood.)
posted by BWA at 2:41 PM on January 27, 2013

I've heard for years that he was a great writer, but it wasn't until recently that I read one of his books for the first time - "The Score", an early Parker book. Solid and wonderful. It played out in my head in black and white noir film making.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:26 PM on January 27, 2013

Just try to write a crime novel that doesn't steal something from Westlake.
posted by Ardiril at 6:54 PM on January 27, 2013

That was a great piece of quality journalism, thank you. Additionally, that writer really understands the Parker books and his affection for Westlake is obvious. Much appreciated.

I love Parker myself, also find them darkly amusing. Only read one Dortmunder novel (Drowned Hopes), I wanted to like it more than I did in the end.
posted by smoke at 12:53 AM on January 28, 2013

Cooke's artwork is too cutesy and nostalgic for Parker.

I thought so, too, before reading it. But in practice I thought it really worked.
posted by Zed at 10:06 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I actually got in touch with the Library of America people. They don't have any plans to do a Westlake collection, but their Editorial Board is aware of the idea.
posted by Amanojaku at 4:18 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

50 years of Parker
posted by Artw at 7:37 AM on January 29, 2013

« Older Is Legendary Comic-Book Vigilante “Judge Dredd”...   |   Albert Dubout Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments