Friday, October 25, 2013

Starktober 23: Flashfire

Flashfire has the longest sustained string of larceny and mayhem in any Parker novel, and it's all in the service of doing something else. This is the story of the job Parker didn't do, and all of the jobs he committed on the way to not doing it, after he told his partners to count him out.

It starts, like all of the later run of Parker books, at a moment of violence and tension. This time out, it's during a bank robbery somewhere in the Midwest, with three guys Parker has never worked with before. They had a big job lined up, but did this "little" one to test him out -- and now they like what they saw.

But Parker doesn't like the job they describe: a flashy assault on a well-guarded target, in a place impossible to escape from, to get loot that will be hard to dispose of. He doesn't do jobs for the thrill or the challenge, but for the money, and he has no confidence that this one would work out profitably. (Or, at least, that's what he tells himself: his actions in this book tend to argue otherwise: that he likes the money, but needs the control and the respect and the danger as much or more.)

Those three guys, in their turn, don't like Parker's answer, but they consider themselves professionals: they'll let Parker go, and give him his cut from this heist (which they need to fund the Big One) in six months, when the Big One is over. They'll keep tabs on him, so he can't mess up that job, but they don't want to hurt him. They're real gentlemen, they think.

Parker disagrees, and sets off on that cold-blooded rampage across the South, stealing guns and money and cars and more money, all to build up an identity just so he can be in place to catch them after that Big Job, kill them, and take all their money. (And, once again, we see that Parker has an idiosyncratic sense of what needs to be done: he burns through as much money as this Big Job -- which he has already turned down because it's too risky -- could possibly make him, particularly since he doesn't have the fence lined up the way his new enemies do.)

It's worse than that, actually: Parker's bad luck puts a new enemy on his back trail, one who sends killers against him in this book and afterward. He needed a new identity for his plan, and bought one -- but went to pick up that identity on the day some other, even more security-conscious man did as well, and came upon the attempted murder of the creator of that identity. (And, yes that is an echo of The Man With the Getaway Face -- one skilled man, providing a service for men outside the law, is killed and that murder puts killers on Parker's trail. It seems to be an occupational hazard.)

Still, it all seems to work: Parker ends up in Miami Beach as Daniel Parmitt, an idle, amiable man from Texas oil money, looking for a place to live. And the identity is strong enough to sustain a bit of attention -- though not too much, if the cops ever get involved. He even meets a local real estate agent, Leslie Mackenzie, who might be able to help him. And he gimmicks up the other heisters' safehouse to be ready for his play to take the loot -- jewels from a charity auction, appraised at twelve million -- once they've done the difficult part.

That's before the killers behind Parker catch up, and only luck -- good, this time, for once -- puts him the hospital instead of the morgue. And he's left with the tatters of a plan and only a few days left, with only that civilian real estate agent and his own weakened body to count on.

Does Parker make it out of Palm Beach with the jewels? And what will he do about those killers who keep coming up behind him? For the first answer, you'll have to read Flashfire. For the second, come back tomorrow for Firebreak.

Starktober Introduction and Index

1 comment:

Harry Connolly said...

Ah. This is the book the PARKER movie was based on.

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