When he sat down at his typewriter in 1962 and started writing The Hunter, using the name Richard Stark, Donald E. Westlake thought he was writing a standalone novel. When he got up from his typewriter and sent the manuscript off to his publisher at Pocket Books, he thought he’d written a standalone novel—Parker ended the book in the custody of the police.
It was only after his editor read the manuscript that things changed. He called Westlake and said, “If you let him escape, and you think you can write a couple of these every year, we’ve got a series.” With that, Parker was born. He would go on to star in twenty-four novels, the last one appearing in 2008, eight months before Donald Westlake died.
So who is Parker? Taciturn and viciously competent, he can seem an inscrutable character whose motivations are not always clear or in line with many readers’ sensibilities. But in many ways, Parker is a very simple man: if there’s a job to do, he does it, and he doesn’t like anything that distracts from that. Small talk, sex, greed, haste, sloppiness—all are problems when there’s work to be done, and Parker’s ready to deal with them however he has to. Nothing brings down the law like violence, so killing is always a last resort. But when it’s the only answer, Parker doesn’t flinch. He’s got the determination of Bruce Willis in Die Hard, the lightning reflexes of Statham in The Transporter, the planning chops of Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, and the relentlessness of the Terminator.
- Don’t ever show a gun to a man you don’t want to kill.
- Don’t talk to the law.
- Always split the money fair.
- Each man for himself.
- Don’t kill somebody unless you have to. It puts the law on you like nothing else.
- Never leave a guy alive who’d like to see you dead.
- Don’t let yourself be framed in a lit doorway.
- Don’t meet in a town where you’re going to make a hit.
- Don’t stay in the hotel where you’re going to make a hit.
- Don’t take a job on consignment.
- Don’t work with anyone you can’t trust or don’t respect.
- When there’s no place to hide, stay where you are.
- Any job that requires more than five guys to be pulled can’t be pulled.
- For a big enough score, any rule can be broken.