I was asked to speak at a "women of Letters" book launch. The brief was to write a letter to , or on , a book you wished you'd written. I spoke about this book by Richard Stark. the Playwright Hannie Rayson spoke last and slayed everybody by mocking books and speaking about her life as if it was a series of plays written by playwrights of each period.
I wish I could have written Richard Starks “THE HUNTER” which was made into a movie called “point Blank”. This is also of course, a kind of death wish, wishing to have been someone else. But Richard Stark was a name and a mask put on by a writer called Donald E Westlake. Donald wrote great books under his own name, kind of light and funny. As Richard Stark he wrote 21 novels about a lone wolf bank robber called “Parker”.
21 books about this world of loner misfits who were outside of the law and the Mob in, generally, Midwest USA of the 60s and 70s. The books were also pulp paperbacks sold at train stations and in airports, outside any kind of a self-conscious literary scene. The stories were built like the classics of James M Cain, always starting at the end and the going back to unravel the situation, pulling apart the fabric to get to the bare threads it consisted of.
There have been several films made. Westlake refused to let them use the name PARKER unless whoever was producing would commit to a series of films, to tell a longer story over time. The films were always low budget too. One called “The OUTFIT” with Robert Duvall. The greatest is “point Blank” where the character, called WALKER” in the film, was truly brought to life by LEE MARVIN. A John Bormann movie, filmed on location in LA and San Francisco and, memorably, within the walls of the recently vacated ALCATRAZ prison.
Like many classics of that period, it has been remade, with the Australian/ American Mel Gibson in the lead. I couldn’t watch that. Lee Marvin was IT.
John Boorman went on to make DELIVERANCE.
Lee left a career of great performances, though this and his turn in Don Siegel’s “THE KILLERS” remake are my personal favourites.
Richard Starks character seemed to take over him and the story wrote itself. A writers dream- or nightmare? Any other characters coming into the story to leaven up the pulp got energized and powered up as well. Parker turned them all on.
He threw some characters in just to be silly. One was Grofeld, a hardcore actor who joined in on some of the robberies to finance his experimental theatre out in the mid west. For Richard Stark, the USA was a huge place where you could get lost easy and could also bury anything. Donald E Westlake, was of course, buried within Richard Stark and that’s how he got Parker out into the world.
So I love writing where people hide things say out in the open. Writing that’s widely and generally available but fearlessly and boldly contains many hidden treasures. Perhaps like a bag of unmarked bills left at a bus station lock up in a satellite city in a rust belt state just past the wheat fields. You could just pick it up and head back to your crib deep inside the Canasta Belt.
dave graney and the mistLY
Friday Nov 9th - the Flying saucer Club. 4 St Georges rd - Elsternwick Vic
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