Friday, October 18, 2013

Starktober 16: Deadly Edge

This was one of his specialties, as electricity was one of Keegan's specialties and driving was one of Morris's. Rare is the high-number robbery that isn't cluttered up with people -- bank customers or armored-car guards or store clerks or whatever. One of Parker's specialties was handling the people, which meant keeping them quiet, making sure none of them got killed, making sure none of them loused up the routine. The last was the most important, and the others would be sacrificed to it, if necessary, though a neat job was always better.

The last quartet of Parker novels before the big hiatus are the only novels in the series published in the 1970s -- after a dozen during the '60s and to be followed by eight in the late '90s and aughts -- and Deadly Edge takes its new decade as an excuse or reason to be suddenly topical and timely. This time around, Parker and his string begin the novel stealing the take from a loud rock 'n' roll show -- cutting through the roof and sneaking in during the middle of the last midnight show of a venue somewhere undefined to carry off the all-cash take, in an echo of the heist in The Seventh five years before.

The antagonists in Deadly Edge are very of-their-time as well, a duo of young thrill-seekers, one of them a junkie and the other one an actual psychopath. (Perhaps Stark had already heard some readers and critics characterize Parker that way, and decided to illustrate the difference?)

In a Parker book, there are always two kinds of people: wolves and lambs. But before Deadly Edge, the wolves were all professional criminals, either heisters like Parker or hoods from what Stark has mostly stopped calling the Outfit by this point. Manny and Jessup are the first amateurs in a Parker novel dangerous for the violence they can do rather than for their mistakes.

Violence in the previous Parker novels was always cold and measured, the product of hard men making decisions and fixing problems -- even the mob bosses of the first few books were vastly less hot-headed than the usual media depiction today. In the first dozen Parker novels, murder and mayhem are jobs for professionals, and only professionals could do them right. But Jessup and Manny are of the new breed: '70s-style thrill killers, motivated by a feral hunger as much as a desire to grab cash.

So these two young men learned about this heist almost accidentally, and decide to take the money. Or maybe they decide it's a fun project to find all of the heisters, kill them, and take the money, because they seem even more interested in the killing, and what leads up to the killing, than they are with the money.

Normally, Parker would be hard to track, and there would be nothing on his back trail to draw them in. But Claire, the woman he met in The Green Eagle Score, has been with him for a few years now, and has convinced him to let her buy a secluded house, in the northwest corner of New Jersey, under the name of Willis. And she is as reflexively protective of that new house as Parker is of the sanctity of his heisting deals, so she utterly refuses when Parker, in his usual cold way, tells her to go to New York for her own safety.

Of course Jessup and Manny find their way to that house, and of course Parker is close behind them. What happens after that I'll leave it for you to discover for yourself.

Starktober Introduction and Index

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