Prodded by V.X. Stern, Erasmus returns to his lower-middlebrow beat. Alas, his grand review of books read will have to wait, given Erasmus's paucity of time and energy, much of which is due to filius Erasmi, young Elmo.
Nevertheless, Erasmus can fit in a capsule review of Richard Stark's Nobody Runs Forever. As alluded to in a few previous posts (α, β, γ), Erasmus is an enormous fan of Westlake's pseudonymous series which stretches back to the early sixties, and the classic first novel The Hunter, adapted twice for the big screen (as Point Blank with Lee Marvin as "Walker" and as Payback with Mel Gibson as "Porter"). Both movies have their strong points and failings. Perhaps a longer post later will address them. Back to the new book.
As mentioned in the Collateral post (gamma supra), Westlake's terrific writerly accomplishment is to keep the reader's narrative sympathy with a character who commits some thoroughly unsympathetic acts. Parker is a "wide guy," a career heister, a thief who goes after large sums of cash, not sparing violence if necessary. Frequently, Parker believes himself compelled to avenge a wrong against himself, or simply wishes to recover something he believes is rightfully his. Either way, one does not want to find oneself in his path. (Interestingly, Westlake took this approach and turned it up to eleven, as Nigel Tufnel might put it, in The Ax, a very black comedy in which the main character is a mild, unassuming, slightly desparate unemployed middle-manager who, in an attempt to salvage his finances, personal life, etc., turns serial killer. A genuinely chilling book, until the comic touches leaven the tone.)
In Nobody Runs Forever, Parker finds himself involved in a heist with some professional acquaintances and some unreliable amateurs. As he himself seems to foresee at points (with the crystal clear sight of a sociopath), the job goes somewhat awry. Given the title, I frankly expected Parker to die and the series to conclude. He doesn't, but the ending is merely a stopping point, and what happens to the antihero is anyone's guess. He might fall into the hands of the law, or he might escape to rob another day.
Like all the novels in the series, this latest volume is an incredibly efficient, dynamic, terse work.