David Goodis' The Wounded and the Slain is a Hard Case Crime reprint (#31, May '07) of a 1955 novel. (See an excerpt here.) TPP readers know of my fondness for Hard Case. I own them all, and expect to own all future ones. My only complaint is sometimes the print quality is bad--faded and uneven. It gives the books a cheap, knocked-off feel. The covers are gorgeous, and I'm planning to add a special shelf in my library to display them, so that makes up for it. Almost. The best part is the quality of the works--smart, hard-hitting stuff. The recent Goodis is packed with existential anguish and repressed desires, and the exotic locale (Jamaica) gives our protagonist license to debauch himself. Naturally, he spills blood, and complications ensue. The surprise is the resolution. Expecting a re-telling of Camus' The Stranger, I got something else entirely, and it worked. Despite some dated material, The Wounded and the Slain has a sympathetic pair of leads, and their crisis is the meat of the book. I was also surprised by Richard Stark's Nobody Runs Forever, the most recent book in the new Parker series that began with Comeback in 1997. (Stark has abandoned the title word play: Backflash, Flashfire, Firebreak, Breakout were the follw-ups.) Ask the Parrot is the next one, due out in November. Donald E. Westlake needs no introduction, as TPP has already lauded him as a master, and we will buy and devour Ask the Parrot. However, I found Nobody Runs Forever to be a bit dull, except for the last part, and burdened by a Dortmunder-like undercurrent of humor. Now, Mr. Westlake is a very funny man, one of the best at comic novels. And that is why we read him and bumble alongside guys like Dortmunder. But this is a Stark novel. Parker, fer chrissakes. And we expect Parker to be hard-boiled, and all business. I wonder if the series is going to end. The surprise ending of Nobody Runs Forever gives that idea some credence. This one had a slow start and an uneven tone, but the climax was handled deftly. No surprise there. Maybe I'm just being fussy, and the book is just as good as the last few. I suppose I'll find out when I ask the parrot.
prid. Kal. Aug.
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