The Hunter by Richard Stark
Richard Stark is Donald Westlake on his rainy days. Parker, his main character from a group of 26 novels from the sixties is *not* Dortmunder. Parker is a sociopath. He doesn’t kill on the job not out of some moral obligation or empathy for his victims, but rather because he hates complications and fuss. Dead bodies cause a fuss.
The Hunter is the first book in the series. When we meet Parker he’s heading to New York to get revenge for being shot by his wife and having his share of the last job stolen by a double-crossing complication.
His wife Lynn shot him in the stomach, but he was saved by a belt-buckle and some straight-up luck. He wants his money back and revenge for being betrayed by his wife and his co-worker. Parker is an anti-hero. He’s dangerous, he’s violent, he’s a cut-throat criminal, but he’s arresting. The books are full of detail and the mechanics of running criminal jobs. They’re smooth, not because of luck and charisma, but rather because of meticulous planning.
I do not *like* Parker particularly, but I love following him. I cheer for him. He has his own code of conduct. He doesn’t cheat his co-conspirators unless they cheat him first. He doesn’t kill unless there’s a complication. And he likes to keep things simple. It’s refreshing.
I devoured The Hunter and two other Parker novels in less than two days. Now, I have to track down the rest of them.