Friday, March 9, 2012

Forgotten Books: The Score by Richard Stark (with a little help from Hammett)

Not long ago, when I reread the complete adventures of the Continental Op, I thought one of the cooler stories was "The Gutting of Couffignal," which originally appeared in Black Mask back in December, 1925.

In Hammett's story, a gang of thugs plan to plan to rob an entire island, and if not for the Op, they would have pulled it off. 39 years later, Donald Westlake turned the island into a canyon, made his character Parker the leader of the thugs and replayed the tale from the point-of-view of the bad guys. And this time, there was no Op standing in their way.

All of that made for a great set-up, and the job goes smoother than expected - until it all goes to hell, and the Hammett mold is broken. The Score is the fifth in the Parker series, and at least as good as any of those that came before. And the legacy of "The Gutting of Couffignal" still lives on. 44 years after Westlake borrowed the idea, Robert B. Parker used it for Spenser in Rough Weather. I guess a truly good story just never gets old.

The Score also marked the first appearance of Westlake/Stark's quirky actor/thug Alan Grofield, who went on to appear in more Parker novels and four books of his own. 

Forgotten any books? Remember them every Friday at pattinase.

5 comments:

Cap'n Bob said...

I read this last year and enjoyed it. Amazingly, I didn't forget it.

George said...

Really Bob...amazing??? I enjoyed THE SCORE. During Patti's FFB Donald Westlake special, I reread SLAYGOUND. The Parker novels may be Westlake's best work.

Richard R. said...

Guess it's time I tried one...

Fred Blosser said...

I think Mr. Westlake planted little jokes in the titles of two or three Parker novels. There are at least two meanings to THE SCORE (one is self-evident but to reveal the second might be a spoiler). THE SEVENTH has at least two meanings, and THE HANDLE has three that I counted.

David Cranmer said...

Love this book and everything Westlake wrote. The best of the best he was.