Author: Richard Stark (Donald Westlake)
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (Reprint edition)
Published: 1997

I have a hand-written list on the fridge of items that I should own, but don’t. Mostly it’s mainstream films that I have never bothered to pick up. They are easy to find, and often turn up on TV. Generally, these are the items that I am almost embarrassed to say that I don’t have a copy of. For example, I do not own any of the Terminator films. Now I love the Terminator. I went and saw the original about four times at various cinemas across the state. But I don’t have a copy of any of them (I, II, III or Salvation). But I have no doubt they will come into my life again, and at that time I will cross them off the list.

Funnily enough, there is only one book on the list (and it is still on the list). It is The Hunter, by Richard Stark. Point Blank is one of my favourite films, and I find it embarrassing that I have never read the book. But I always keep my eye out for it. I know in this modern world, it is easy enough to get on the web – but I am kind of old fashioned when it comes to books. I like scrounging through second hand book shops. Anyway, the thing is, I have never found a copy.

But, the other day, in the centre-court of my local shopping-town there was a book sale, and one of the titles going cheap was Comeback. I almost didn’t pick it up – but then thought, ‘David – you’ve had The Hunter on your list for so long now, why don’t you just get Comeback. Try Richard Stark out. See if you like him. If you do, then continue to search for The Hunter.

So that’s how Comeback came into my life – and my introduction to the character Parker (He doesn’t have a first name.). And I thought it was a really good book. The first three-quarters where damn good, it is only towards the end, that the story sort of fizzles out. But talking to fellow Melbournite, Andrew Nette, from Pulp Curry – a man well versed in all things criminal, and a man who knows his Parker – he suggests go to the start of the series, written in the early 1960s. Read the early books. And I will.

But today, let’s briefly look at Comeback, which was the first Parker novel in 23 years (the last being Butcher’s Moon in 1974). Parker is a career criminal, and as the story opens, he has teamed up with George Liss, Ed Mackey to rob William Archibald. Archibald is a big time TV evangelist, and he holds Christian Crusades at football stadiums, where his flock attend and hand over large amounts of cash in donations.

Parker and his team intend to relieve Archibald of this money. And they have help too. A guy on the inside, named Tom Carmody. Carmody is actually a good-guy, not a crook. He has simply become frustrated with Archibald’s lifestyle. That is to say, Archibald doesn’t use the money for the betterment of his flock and society. He uses the money to live high on the hog.

So Carmody teams up with some crooks to teach Archibald a lesson. And Carmody intends to use his share, to do some actual good. As you probably can imagine, Carmody, is way over his head. And during the robbery is knocked out by Liss.

Parker, Liss and Mackey make their getaway, and hole up waiting for the heat to die down. But Liss is the type who doesn’t play well with others. He tries to steal all the loot for himself, and shoot Parker and Mackey. Luckily Parker had the foresight to unload all the weapons beforehand.

Liss flees, rightfully fearing retribution from his colleagues. But he doesn’t go too far. He didn’t get what he came for – the money. And so he watches and waits, looking for an opportunity to step into the picture once more and claim, what he believes is rightfully his.

As I alluded to up above, the majority of the book is fast paced and gripping to read. It is only the final physical confrontation between Liss and Parker that lets the story down. It is not helped by the fact, there is no doubt that Parker will win, so there’s a lack concern about his fate – which is a shame because the setup is so good.

Don’t get me wrong, I would still recommend this book – but if you are like me, and are new to the world of Parker, then maybe we should go back to the beginning and take it from the top.


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