Stark is a pen-name of Donald E Westlake, an extraordinarily prolific and successful writer, largely but not exclusively in crime. This novel was originally published as The Hunter and renamed Point Blank after the huge success of the film version, starring Lee Marvin. Marvin’s lead character was called Walker, a small and rather puzzling change from the original Parker.
For once it doesn’t hurt to have the picture of a movie star in your head when you read the original novel. Marvin was fantastic casting, Parker could have been written for him: “His hair was brown and dry and dead, blowing around his head like a poor toupee about to fly loose. His face was a chipped chunk of concrete, with eyes of flawed onyx.”
Parker’s a criminal, a freelance heist man, who has a nice routine: an occasional job that pays for a life spent lounging round pools in resort hotels. As Point Blank opens, his routine has been disrupted by a double-crossing associate who needs to buy his way back into the Mafia’s good books, and Parker’s own wife.
Parker wants his money back. That’s about it really. What Parker wants, Parker gets and if you get in the way, well, get out of it if you can.
I like Stark’s writing. It’s spare and efficient, like Parker’s modus operandi. The Mafia – the Outfit, Syndicate, or the Organisation depending on who you are here – is explained as a modern corporation, a theme Stark expands on in The Outfit (of which there’s also an excellent film version).