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Friday, November 27, 2009

Dirty Money - Grim

Eight of us met last week to discuss Dirty Money by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) 2008.

We all agreed: Stark gave us excellent and enjoyable descriptions of setting, wrote like the professional and mature writer that he is, and provided believable dialog. But to one degree or another, we also all agreeds that we did not enjoy the book and most likely would not read another by Stark.

OK, frankly our group prefers the "good guy" type of central character. At the very least, we want someone we can like. But in Parker, we felt there was little or nothing to like. He was not a "bumbler" like Dortmunder; Parker is a self-centered, remoreseless killer. In fact, Stark keeps Parker very flat and one-dimensional. We are quite frankly puzzled by the awards that Stark has received for Parker. Perhaps "less is more"?

We thought that the side characters were more interesting; they seemed to be real people with real feelings, more multi-dimensional. This observation includes the B&B owner, the two-timing bounty-hunter woman, and the doctor trapped by his own weaknesses.

Since we had no one in our group who had read the series opener, The Hunter (1962 !), we have no way of knowing whether Stark wrote differently in that book or provided more to like about him. One or two of us thought we might check it out, but that would be primarily a matter of curiosity.

We agreed there is good pacing and enough tension to keep us moving through the book. It's just that we regretted getting to the end. For the ending has no resolution; it just stops. One of our members had read the previous book instead of Dirty Money, and she confirmed that that book also just stopped. It is as though Dirty Money is the next chapter, but "so what."

Coincidentally, as I mentioned in a previous post, Cynthia Riggs and Mark Arsenault both mentioned Westlake as a most admired writer at a New England Crimebake panel two weeks ago. Our mystery book club gave a higher average score to Riggs (for Deadly Nightshade) than we did Stark.

Obviously Parker was an enduring character that lasted throughout Westlake's long writing career. But we would love to hear from some folks that "loved" Dirty Money and tell us why!

2009 POLL #2--Do Mystery Stories and Political Bias Mix? What is closest to your view?