“The Hunter” by Richard Stark

Stark, Richard.  The Hunter (1962); rpt. as Point Blank  
Allison & Busby, 154 pages, $13.95 hardcover   
ISBN 0 85031 591 3

{Richard Stark is a pseudonym Donald E. Westlake used for a series of stark noir thrillers featuring the character Parker.}

As Parker walks across the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan at the beginning of this novel, he’s contemplating revenge. Double-crossed by his partner, shot by his wife, and left for dead in a burning building, Parker figures he has several scores to settle.

The first person he drops in on is his wife, Lynn: “There had never been a woman anywhere in the world to trouble him, till her. There never would be again” (p. 23). The next person on Parker’s list, his former partner Mal Resnick, is a bit harder to find. Resnick, we learn, double-crossed Parker in a scheme to steal money from international arms smugglers; Resnick took Parker’s share as well as his own and used the money to buy himself back into a minor position with The Outfit. When Resnick hears that Parker is alive and looking for him, he runs for cover.

But, of course, Parker finds Resnick. It isn’t until Parker has his hands around Resnick’s throat that he thinks about getting his money back in addition to having his revenge.

Parker exemplifies the modern antihero. Like the traditional hero of literature, Parker is on a quest. But his motives are purely selfish (revenge, greed), and he has no qualms about disposing of whoever gets in his way.

The film Payback (released February 1999), directed by and starring Mel Gibson, is based on this book. An earlier film version, Point Blank (1967), starred Lee Marvin.

© 1999 by Mary Daniels Brown

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