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The Score: A Parker Novel [Paperback]

Richard Stark , John Banville
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 15 2009 Parker Novels

You probably haven’t ever noticed them. But they’ve noticed you. They noticeeverything. That’s their job. Sitting quietly in a nondescript car outside a bank making note of the tellers’ work habits, the positions of the security guards. Lagging a few car lengths behind the Brinks truck on its daily rounds. Surreptitiously jiggling the handle of an unmarked service door at the racetrack.

They’re thieves. Heisters, to be precise. They’re pros, and Parker is far and away the best of them. If you’re planning a job, you want him in. Tough, smart, hardworking, and relentlessly focused on his trade, he is the heister’s heister, the robber’s robber, the heavy’s heavy. You don’t want to cross him, and you don’t want to get in his way, because he’ll stop at nothing to get what he’s after.

Parker, the ruthless antihero of Richard Stark’s eponymous mystery novels, is one of the most unforgettable characters in hardboiled noir.  Lauded by critics for his taut realism, unapologetic amorality, and razor-sharp prose-style—and adored by fans who turn each intoxicating page with increasing urgency—Stark is a master of crime writing; his books as influential as any in the genre. The University of Chicago Press has embarked on a project to return the early volumes of this series to print for a new generation of readers to discover—and become addicted to. This season’s offerings include volumes 4–6 in the series:The Mourner,The Score, andThe Jugger.

The Mourneris a story of convergence—of cultures and of guys with guns. Hot on the trail of a statue stolen from a fifteenth-century French tomb, Parker enters a world of eccentric art collectors, greedy foreign officials, and shady KGB agents. Next, Parker works with a group of professional con men inThe Scoreon his biggest job yet—robbing an entire town in North Dakota. InThe Jugger, Parker travels to Nebraska to help out a geriatric safecracker who knows too many of his criminal secrets. By the time he arrives, the safecracker is dead and Parker’s skeletons are on the verge of escaping from their closet—unless Parker resorts to lethal measures.

 

“Whatever Stark writes, I read. He’s a stylist, a pro, and I thoroughly enjoy his attitude.”—Elmore Leonard

 

“Westlake knows precisely how to grab a reader, draw him or her into the story, and then slowly tighten his grip until escape is impossible.”—WashingtonPost Book World

 

“Donald Westlake’s Parker novels are among the small number of books I read over and over. Forget all that crap you’ve been telling yourself aboutWar and Peaceand Proust—these are the books you’ll want on that desert island.”—Lawrence Block


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Product Description

Review

“The UC Press mission, to reprint the 1960s Parker novels of Richard Stark (the late Donald Westlake), is wholly admirable. The books have been out of print for decades, and the fast-paced, hard-boiled thrillers featuring the thief Parker are brilliant.”

(H. J. Kirchoff Globe and Mail 2009-04-17)

“Perhaps this, more than anything else, is what I admire about these novels: the consistent ruthlessness of an unapologetic bastard. And so if you’re a fan of noir novels and haven’t yet read Richard Stark, you may want to give these books a try. Who knows? Parker may just be the son of a bitch you’ve been searching for.”

(John McNally Virginia Quarterly Review)

“Parker is refreshingly amoral, a thief who always gets away with the swag.”
(Stephen King Entertainment Weekly)

“Parker . . . lumbers through the pages of Richard Stark’s noir novels scattering dead bodies like peanut shells. . . . In a complex world [he] makes things simple.”
(William Grimes New York Times)

“Whatever Stark writes, I read. He’s a stylist, a pro, and I thoroughly enjoy his attitude.”
(Elmore Leonard)

“Richard Stark’s Parker novels . . . are among the most poised and polished fictions of their time and, in fact, of any time.”
(John Banville Bookforum)

“Parker is a true treasure. . . . The master thief is back, along with Richard Stark.”
(Marilyn Stasio New York Times Book Review)

“Westlake knows precisely how to grab a reader, draw him or her into the story, and then slowly tighten his grip until escape is impossible.”
(Washington Post)

“Elmore Leonard wouldn’t write what he does if Stark hadn’t been there before. And Quentin Tarantino wouldn’t write what he does without Leonard. . . . Old master that he is, Stark does all of them one better.”
(Los Angeles Times)

“Donald Westlake’s Parker novels are among the small number of books I read over and over. Forget all that crap you’ve been telling yourself about War and Peace and Proust—these are the books you’ll want on that desert island.”

(Lawrence Block)

“Richard Stark writes a harsh and frightening story of criminal warfare and vengeance with economy, understatement and a deadly amoral objectivity—a remarkable addition to the list of the shockers that the French call roman noirs.”

(Anthony Boucher New York Times Book Review)

"Parker is a brilliant invention. . . . What chiefly distinguishes Westlake, under whatever name, is his passion for process and mechanics. . . . Parker appears to have eliminated everything from his program but machine logic, but this is merely protective coloration. He is a romantic vestige, a free-market anarchist whose independent status is becoming a thing of the past."

(Luc Sante New York Review of Books)

"I wouldn't care to speculate about what it is in Westlake's psyche that makes him so good at writing about Parker, much less what it is that makes me like the Parker novels so much. Suffice it to say that Stark/Westlake is the cleanest of all noir novelists, a styleless stylist who gets to the point with stupendous economy, hustling you down the path of plot so briskly that you have to read his books a second time to appreciate the elegance and sober wit with which they are written."

(Terry Teachout Commentary)

"The University of Chicago Press has recently undertaken a campaign to get Parker back in print in affordable and handsome editions, and I dove in. And now I get it."

(Josef Braun Vue Weekly)

"Whether early or late, the Parker novels are all superlative literary entertainments."—Terry Teachout, Weekly Standard

(Terry Teachout Weekly Standard)

About the Author

Richard Stark was one of the many pseudonyms of Donald E. Westlake (1933-2008), a prolific author of noir crime fiction. In 1993 the Mystery Writers of America bestowed the society’s highest honor on Westlake, naming him a Grand Master.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Robbery of a Town May 9 2004
Format:Hardcover
Donald Westlake is probably best known for his humorous crime novels. His books featuring John Dortmunder, a fatalistic thief, are hilarious capers making light of the world of criminals. The series that he writes under the pseudonym Richard Stark is probably a little less well known. This series features an anti-hero protagonist by the name of Parker and is very much in the hardboiled category and the world of criminals is portrayed as a dark, dangerous underground of professionals. THE SCORE is the 5th book in the Parker series, a series that is a little bit unusual in that it takes the role of the professional criminal and, to a certain extent, glamorises it.
As THE SCORE opens, Parker is in New York for a meeting to consider the prospects of an upcoming job. On the way to the meeting he notices he is being followed. The ruthless way in which he deals with his pursuer and then the way he is completely unaffected by the encounter is an early indication of the kind of cold-hearted guy he is.
A plot has been hatched to knock over an entire town and Parker is asked to run the show. The proposition appears ludicrous at first glance. The fact that the man presenting the plan is an amateur sets off all sorts of alarm bells in Parker's head. But the lucrative nature of the proposed heist lures Parker in to make a few adjustments to the plans before he agrees that the job can be done.
Parker decides that it will take 12 men to go into the North Dakota mining town of Copper Canyon, open the safes of the town's businesses including the mining company safe which will be holding that week's payroll. They will also be opening the vault of the town's only bank for good measure.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good Stark, but not his best. Nov. 22 2002
Format:Paperback
A good book, to be sure, but not one of Stark's best. Parker is hired to plan a robbery focusing on an entire town. The heist goes off without a hitch, but unforseen circumstances come into play, and Parker has to fix the problem his own way. About equal with Backflash and Firebreak.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fun read! Feb. 24 2014
By Robert
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was the first Stark novel I read, I was familiar with the Parker character from the movie Payback and our reading grou, The Sons of Literacy, picked this as the the book to read this month.

Parker is a no nonsense kind of guy taken to the next level, the only thing that matters is the job, and he does what needs to be done to get the job done. No violence or destruction just for the sake of it, just what is required.

This will not be the last Stark novel I read I know that much.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  45 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Parker's Ultimate Caper Feb. 10 2001
By Larry Eischen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio Cassette
Richard Stark ( Donald E Westake) gives us the ultimate in heists with this terrific early Parker novel. When Parker hears of a plan to rob an entire town, he's leery of the inside man and the number of thieves needed to pull off the caper. Nevertheless he is brought into the scheme and together with 11 other fellow thieves, they pull off the dream caper until the double cross inevitable in a Parker novel. In the meantime, the inside man acts on the plan that he formed for vengeance. Grofield (Stark's actor/thief) falls for a hostage and a teen leaving a night of passion at his girlfriend's after curfew also throw monkey wrenches into the story. When the team makes it to their hideout after several deaths and an inferno, it further unravels as the group waits out the police search. This is Stark at his finest. Granted it's a little dated and the plan wouldn't work today. The townfolk have to place out-of-town calls through operators at a central switchboard and the switchboard operators are covered by the team. Imagine the problems in today's cellular world. Nevertheless, this pulls together several of Parker's cronies from previous capers and introduces new ones. We get the usual scenes of plan, payoff,doublecross and Parker's efforts to escape the consequences of the doublecross. These are set pieces in any Parker novel and Stark works them like a pro. If you're just discovering Parker through his new capers, this is a must have from the original series.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Robbery of a Town May 9 2004
By Untouchable - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Donald Westlake is probably best known for his humorous crime novels. His books featuring John Dortmunder, a fatalistic thief, are hilarious capers making light of the world of criminals. The series that he writes under the pseudonym Richard Stark is probably a little less well known. This series features an anti-hero protagonist by the name of Parker and is very much in the hardboiled category and the world of criminals is portrayed as a dark, dangerous underground of professionals. THE SCORE is the 5th book in the Parker series, a series that is a little bit unusual in that it takes the role of the professional criminal and, to a certain extent, glamorises it.
As THE SCORE opens, Parker is in New York for a meeting to consider the prospects of an upcoming job. On the way to the meeting he notices he is being followed. The ruthless way in which he deals with his pursuer and then the way he is completely unaffected by the encounter is an early indication of the kind of cold-hearted guy he is.
A plot has been hatched to knock over an entire town and Parker is asked to run the show. The proposition appears ludicrous at first glance. The fact that the man presenting the plan is an amateur sets off all sorts of alarm bells in Parker's head. But the lucrative nature of the proposed heist lures Parker in to make a few adjustments to the plans before he agrees that the job can be done.
Parker decides that it will take 12 men to go into the North Dakota mining town of Copper Canyon, open the safes of the town's businesses including the mining company safe which will be holding that week's payroll. They will also be opening the vault of the town's only bank for good measure.
The one-night crime spree in the town of Copper Canyon takes place with the whole operation running like clockwork...almost. It wouldn't be much fun if Parker and his crew didn't encounter any problems and the way in which Parker handles these problems speaks volumes for the `ice in the blood' way he approaches ay crisis.
The Parker books all tend to follow the same general template of plan, prepare, execute and getaway. Add to that the required plan changes due to unforeseen circumstances, such as a gang member going postal for instance, and another Parker story is complete. The style of Richard Stark is abrupt, like Parker himself. If it doesn't pertain directly to the job at hand, it isn't mentioned in the book. This lack of detail holds true when talking about such things as the background of the characters, although they are each given a thumbnail sketch, but when it comes to the planning and actually carrying out of the robbery, the detail is incredibly complete. I find that this is the strength of the Parker books and the reason that I keep coming back for more.
Parker is not the hero of this series. I mentioned in the opening that he is the anti-hero and I believe this is the most appropriate way to describe him. He is a cold, calculating criminal who would not hesitate to shoot you if you posed any threat to him or his operation. That being said, you can't help but admire the professional way in which he goes about his business.
THE SCORE was first published in 1964 and so the technology used in the heist is dated and there is no way they would get away with it in this modern world. But when you put it into the context of the time in which it was written Stark / Westlake has done a terrific job of turning a seemingly ridiculous idea into a plausible robbery, bringing up major obstacles and then having Parker and his team come up with ingenious solutions.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate anti-hero Dec 17 2009
By Tim Niland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Master thief and anti-hero Parker is getting antsy and bored. So when the call comes offering him a chance to head up to Jersey City to hear about a potential job he takes it. And what a job it is - the plan is to immobilize an entire small North Dakota town and rob it blind. Even for somebody like Parker, who has ice water in his veins, this is an audacious plan. Can a dozen men really take out an entire town and get away with the loot? This was another exciting fast-paced Parker adventure, Stark (aka Donald Wastlake) takes us through the planning, the heist and then the moment it all goes pear-shaped. Parker is such a refreshing character because he has no pretenses or morals that get in the way of the crackling plot. The plot is fast paced and the dialogue is sharp and fun. It's easy to see how the series lasted as long as it did, with the wealth of detail and Stark's mastery of the form.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Old Fashioned Crime Story March 17 2012
By Squeak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I listened to this story as an audiobook, narrated by Stephen R. Thorne, so my review is based on that version.

This story is about a gang of thieves working out a heist. Each person in the heist has a specific job they are to do and the job will be planned down to the last detail. Parker is the main crook of the bunch and the others defer to his knowledge and skill in setting up the heist. Initially the original heist, to knock off all the big places in one town, is shot down by Parker as too risky. Eventually Parker gives in and starts to work out all the details for the job.

This book was originally written in 1964, so it is the equivalent of watching an old black and white movie. It was kind of fun to take a trip down memory lane. These guys were out to steal thousands of dollars (not millions) and they don't have use of cell phones, internet, or video cameras.

The gang is going to go into this town and take control of the telephone switchboard during the job, so no one will be able to call out of the town for help. (There are ladies actually sitting and physically patching phone calls through via a switchboard! LoL) As with all best laid plans of mice and men, things seem to go alright until a couple of the guys start doing their own thing during the heist. Then the band of thieves has big problems.

I enjoyed listening to the story, but it is not anywhere near the level of suspense that today's novels have. Also, this story was written in a way that the descriptions of rooms, cars, or insignificant other things were almost too detailed. Little things were pointed out that had no bearing on the story. Could just be the style of this writer, since this is the first book I have read of Donald Westlake's I am not sure.

This was the 5th book in the Parker series. I have not read or listened to any of the others and it did not take away from my enjoyment of the book. If I didn't know it was a series, I wouldn't have guessed. The ending ended at a logical place and not as a cliff hanger, so this could definitely be read (or listened to) as a standalone story.

The Narration Review
This audiobook was narrated by Stephen R. Thorne. I think he did a great job with the character voices in this story. He has great articulation and intonation and I was able to easily identity the different voices as they spoke making it very easy to immerse myself in the story.

** Note **
I received this audiobook free from AudioGo in exchange for an honest review. I received no chocolate or any other compensation in exchange for my review.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Procedural Nov. 18 2011
By H. Schneider - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Quote
You can steal in this country, you can rape and murder, you can bribe public officials, you can pollute the morals of the young, you can burn your place of business down for the insurance money, you can do almost anything you want, and if you act with just a little caution and common sense you will never even be indicted. But if you don't pay your income tax, you will go to jail.
Unquote
Page 73. First published 1964.
Richard Stark/Donald Westlake has written a whole series of crime procedurals around Parker, the man without a first name. Not police procedurals, but robbery procedurals, written from the perspective of the perpetrator. This is all highly immoral and very entertaining.
In the Score, volume 5 of the series, Parker robs a whole little mining town in North Dakota. The job isn't what he normally does. It is larger and more complex and involves more people. What you get with this novel is a guideline for project team organization. If you are into industrial project management, you can learn something here, besides the entertainment.
On the other hand, while the job is more complex, the novel is fairly straightforward and uncomplex, hence I would rate it a bit lower than some of the others in the series.
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