The Parker Novels by Richard Stark (AKA Donald E. Westlake), other works by DEW, and crime fiction in general
Ooh, he’s good, that Mr Cooke. That’s Copper Canyon, right there.
This cover is awesome! It gives me goosebumps. The perfect image for the book. A group of men intending to ruthlessly pillage a town.
Menacing, ominous, and pretty much how I pictured it when I read it a few years ago.
I love the way he illustrates Parker’s world–the backgrounds–I’m a bit less enthused over how he draws Parker himself. I almost never like the way he draws anybody else, particularly the women, who seem like soulless creatures–not at all the way Westlake portrayed them.
At the end of the day, not such a big fan of graphic novels adapting actual novels. I don’t see the point. And I’m a longtime comic book fan, btw. Like I even still call them comic books.
I wouldn’t mind seeing this as the cover for a reprint edition of The Score. The real novel. Not Cooke’s interpretation of it.
This cover is spectacular and I love all of Cooke’s Parker work so far. I hope he continues on with his adaptations of the novels. I know he left the door open to do that. It was Cooke’s versions of The Hunter and The Outfit that finally convinced me to read the actual Parker novels after waffling about it for ages. I have been reading the U of Chicago Press paperbacks in order and am currently halfway throught Butcher’s Moon. What a great ride it has been! I look forward to reading the rest of the series, and then I’ll probably start over at the beginning!
All I can say is “WOW”!!! Cooke Rocks!!!
Maybe a seventh as much as Richard Stark rocks. Which I guess isn’t that bad a split. :)
This is not really Stark related but it is Darwyn Cooke related, and a pretty big announcement in the comic book world. I was a huge fan of comics before I got into crime fiction and one of my all-time favorite comics/graphic novels was Watchmen. I was not alone; apparently it was the only graphic novel on Time’s 100 most important books of the century list. Now I will paste an email I got yesterday that I’m sure is going to cause a LOT of controversy:
DC ENTERTAINMENT OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCES “BEFORE WATCHMEN”
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This summer, DC Entertainment will publish all-new stories expanding on the acclaimed WATCHMEN universe. As highly anticipated as they are controversial, the seven inter-connected prequel mini-series will build on the foundation of the original WATCHMEN, the best-selling graphic novel of all time. BEFORE WATCHMEN will be the collective banner for all seven titles, from DC Comics.
“It’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant,” said DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. “After twenty five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told. We sought out the best writers and artists in the industry to build on the complex mythology of the original.”
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Stepping up to the challenge is a group of the comic book industry’s most iconoclastic writers and artists – including Brian Azzarello (100 BULLETS), Lee Bermejo (JOKER), Amanda Conner (POWER GIRL), Darwyn Cooke (JUSTICE LEAGUE: NEW FRONTIER), John Higgins (WATCHMEN), Adam Hughes (CATWOMAN), J.G. Jones (FINAL CRISIS), Andy Kubert (FLASHPOINT), Joe Kubert (SGT. ROCK), Jae Lee (BATMAN: JEKYLL AND HYDE), J. Michael Straczynski (SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE) and Len Wein (SWAMP THING).
BEFORE WATCHMEN includes:
- RORSCHACH (4 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Lee Bermejo
- MINUTEMEN (6 issues) – Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
- COMEDIAN (6 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: J.G. Jones
- DR. MANHATTAN (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artist: Adam Hughes
- NITE OWL (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artists: Andy and Joe Kubert
- OZYMANDIAS (6 issues) – Writer: Len Wein. Artist: Jae Lee
- SILK SPECTRE (4 issues) – Writer: Darwyn Cooke. Artist: Amanda Conner
Each week, a new issue will be released, and will feature a two-page back-up story called CURSE OF THE CRIMSON CORSAIR, written by original series editor Len Wein and with art by original series colorist John Higgins. There will also be a single issue, BEFORE WATCHMEN: EPILOGUE, featuring the work of various writers and artists, and a CRIMSON CORSAIR story by Wein and Higgins.
Aside from the interesting note that D. Cooke will have a hand in Before Watchmen, I have as much interest in reading this series as in reading a continuation of the Parker series by another author other than our Don….that is not at all. I think Alan Moore did a fine job creating a complete story and to me this just smacks of DC cashing in on Moore’s reputation and hoping to attract folks who won’t know the difference. Oh well…crass exploitation seems to be everywhere. Count me out…..
On hearing the news that Darwyn Cooke was involved with the Watchmen project, I was disappointed for two reasons. Like many others, I felt that Watchmen should be left as it is. The second was that any extra non-Parker work would slow Darwyn down, however May doesn’t seem all that far away when we get The Score.
Any fans of the adaptations should check out Cooke’s “Selina’s Big Score” and also his version of “The Spirit” which brings the character into the 21st century with the same success as the recent TV adaptations of Sherlock which I hope is available in the States.
I know I am risking the ire of Stark fans everywhere by admitting this: I would actually look forward to a new Parker by someone authorized by the DEW estate to write under the Richard Stark psuedonym. Yes, it would not be the same, but I look forward to the new film even though it is an interpretation and adaptation and not something written by DEW, even if the source material was.
I could imagine a host of very talented writers taking a shot at Parker (no pun intended). Off the top of my head: Duane Swierczynski, Brian Garfiield, Wallace Stroby, Garry Disher, Max Allan Collins, Lawrence Block, and many many more.
I just think the character of Parker is so well-defined and iconic that other authors could write interesting additions to the Parker canon. Whereas with a character like Travis McGee, it wouldn’t be so easy because McGee was so idiosyncratic because so much of him was the thoughts, beliefs, opinions of John D. MacDonald.
Any others agree with me?
I agree … Some new Parker novels would only serve to introduce readers to the originals by Westlake. I see this happen with the pulp fiction heroes all the time. Old Timers piss and moan about “these kids today” who don’t read The Shadow, Doc Savage, et al — and then complain when a new series of books or comics come along that might introduce them to the originals.
The prevalent attitude seems to be, “You must enjoy these characters in the same manner as we enjoy them, no exceptions.” Thank God we haven’t heard similar complaints (for the most part) from Parker fans regarding Cooke’s adaptations.
As for an author to continue the Parker series, I recommend Bill Pronzini. Read the Jack Foxx novels with his character Dan Connell, you will see why I think Bill a great choice.
Okay, I hadn’t noticed this discussion.
I could not more vehemently disagree.
This is an almost impossible character to get right. The movies have never managed it, the pastiches give him a dog, or try to make him into a knight-errant of noir like Philip Marlowe (Westlake was not a huge Raymond Chandler fan). Westlake himself couldn’t write Parker for almost 25 years–that should tell you how hard it is.
We don’t need new novels to introduce people to the character. We’ll have graphic novel and filmed adaptations, and we’ll have the best introduction of all, which is THE BOOKS DONALD WESTLAKE WROTE. I mean, that prose is going to hold up, guys. It’s written to last. It’s never going to date. People will be reading those books a hundred years from now.
Parker isn’t Sherlock Holmes. He’s not Dracula, either. He’s not that kind of iconic character, who can benefit from posthumous reinterpretations. He is what he is, and that’s it.
If somebody wants to try writing a new Parker story (calling him Parker or something else), just to see if he or she can do it, I’m fine with that. But it should be a personal, not-for-profit thing. A literary exercise. Nothing more.
I’m particularly surprised at you David, because you’re suggesting that it might be wrong to publish an actual Westlake novel that he never told anyone he wanted suppressed at all costs. But you’re suggesting something now that Westlake would NEVER have agreed to, under any circumstances. I mean, he felt so strongly about Parker that he wouldn’t let any of the film adaptations made in his lifetime use the Parker name. Not unless they did straight-up adaptations of all the novels in order, without pulling any punches, or trying to clean Parker up–which he knew damn well would never happen. It was his way of saying “Sure, I’ll take the money, and I may even enjoy the movie, but that’s not Parker.” And it never was. And it never will be.
Nobody else could ever get into that character. Parker would never talk to anybody but Richard Stark and Richard Stark would never talk through anybody but Donald Westlake.
It would be fake, and it would destroy something special, unique.
It would turn a truly one-of-a-kind character into just another phony franchise.
I don’t care who writes it. I would never read it. NEVER. Parker’s story ended with “Dirty Money”. Case closed.
What he said. The problem (for me anyway) with any kind of continuation or tribute is that it is pretty much glorified fan fiction. There will always be a difference between someone writing something original, and someone trying to copy another writer’s work. I would much rather see writers drawing inspiration from the Parker series and filtering it through their own personal sensibility (as Max Allan Collins did with his Nolan novels) than see someone else write an Officially Authorised Parker novel. I’d have as much interest in reading that as I do in reading Jeffrey Deaver’s James Bond novel.
Exactly–the goal is to create something new, not simply to rehash what’s been done before. Westlake certainly drew on authors he admired, Hammett most notably, to create Parker. But what he created was utterly different from anything that had been seen before, and in spite of all the ‘homages’, from anything we’ve seen since.
We’re not talking about Parker here because he’s a household word (he’s not), or because there have been big hit movies based on him (there haven’t)-we’re here because these stories have that rare ring of authenticity–of someone who cared so much about getting it just right that he simply stopped writing books he knew there was a ready market for, simply because he couldn’t persuade himself that he could write in that voice anymore, and it took 25 years for him to get it back.
If he’d gone on writing Parker novels in the years following Butcher’s Moon, people would have bought them, many would have enjoyed them, but Westlake would have known it was all a lie. That he was just pretending to write Parker stories, in an ersatz version of Richard Stark’s prose. And off in the distance, he’d see the real Parker, shaking his head, and walking away for good.
So anyone who wants to emulate him has to aspire to that level of creative integrity–and originality.
I’d understand more if the books were out of print, but thanks to U. of Chicago, none of them are. We’re in no danger of losing touch with Richard Stark and Parker. The danger is that we’ll water them down, until they lose all their flavor.
24 novels is a lot. If we’re not satisfied with that, we’ll never be satisfied. Let Parker the hell alone. Or he’ll make you wish you had. ;)
Okay, ONE exception–if Alan Moore ever did another League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel, peopled with characters from 1960′s crime fiction, I’d be all too happy to see his interpretation of Parker. But he only uses public domain characters for those (he kind of bent that rule a bit for Fu Manchu, and honestly that character should be public domain by now anyway, and it’s not like anybody else was using him). And he’s not going to live that long, and neither am I for that matter.
I’d really hate to see Parker sold off, turned into yet another pointless exercise in squeezing every last drop of blood out of a fictional turnip. One reason I’m worried about the new movie–they should not have let them use the Parker name. They should have respected Westlake’s wishes, and made them call the Statham character something else. Like maybe “Cowboy Bob”. :)
They did respect Westlake’s wishes. The reason he wouldn’t let anyone use the name Parker wasn’t because he required the filmmakers to be to-the-letter faithful to the character. The reason he wouldn’t let anyone use the name was because he would only sell it for a series character, not a one-off. All of the previous movies were conceived as one-offs, but the Statham movie is intended to start a franchise.
I’ve got a fair amount of dirt on the film, both from communicating with some of the people involved (some of whom were very close to Westlake) and my constant scouring of the Internet (I don’t post everything I see), and I can assure you that the goal is to make a highly faithful adaptation (obviously Statham’s accent means it won’t be completely faithful).
It might end up not being a good movie. Who knows? But hearts are in the right place with the project, I promise. Also, Statham has apparently read the books and become a big fan. (If you’re reading this, Mr. Statham, hello! Drop me a line sometime, OK? We’ll go to the pub.)
This is as good a time as any to mention something that is an informed deduction. A change in release date can be a sign of weakness, and in the old days, late January was where they dumped bad movies to die.
But I don’t think that’s the case here. The original release date had a problem because it was going to be up against another crime movie (I forget the title).
As for the January release date? In recent years, some films released in late January have found an eager audience. Two of them were The Grey and the almost Not Quite Parker film Taken, both with Liam Neeson.
My guess is that the movie people think that this film can tap into that audience. For whatever reason, films with unapologetic tough guys have found an audience in late January, perhaps because people who like that sort of thing have spent the previous few months with nothing in theaters but family films and Oscar bait.
For the record, I saw both of those movies in the theater, and I don’t go to the theater that often these days, so whatever they’ve tapped into worked on me. If the movie is good and the release formula is correct, Parker could turn out to be a decent-sized hit, and we might get those sequels.
Update: I couldn’t remember where I read it, but a Google search found it. This piece informed my deduction. It doesn’t mention Taken, which is the closest to a Parker flick since The Limey. When I checked the US release date for that one, the pieces fell into place.
Mmmm. I know what you mean about Taken, and I hope you know what I mean when I say that while Neeson could have been a great Parker, that unbelievably self-righteous revenge pic (even by the standards of revenge pics) is about as far from Parker’s sensibilities as one can get. And from Westlake’s.
I tend to put more faith in your original intuition–they moved “Parker” because there are problems with the film. I would be very surprised if we saw a franchise out of this.
I’ve read several interviews where Westlake talked about why he wouldn’t let them use the Parker name, and my take is that he wanted them to agree to do all the novels, in order, faithfully. And he was much too smart a guy to think they’d ever do that. He never went out there and tried to sell a Parker film franchise. I honestly believe–without any proof, I cheerfully admit–that he wanted to maintain a barrier between his Parker and the movie versions, because he knew how much compromise is involved in making a movie as opposed to writing a book, and the reason he spent most of his life writing books when he could easily have moved over to the much more lucrative business of writing for film and TV is precisely because he valued his personal vision too much to sell it out. Why does Grofield refuse to work in Hollywood, even though he clearly loves Hollywood movies, and the work he does to support his little-seen theatrical productions could get him killed or imprisoned for life? Because he’d lose creative control. Don’t ever underestimate how much that meant to Donald Westlake. “What I have written, I have written.”
Why wouldn’t he make the same demand with regards to Dortmunder? Because he knew Hollywood could do Dortmunder without watering him down that much. The movies might be horrible (Jimmy the Kid certainly looks bad), but they wouldn’t be betrayals of the basic comic essence of the character. Hollywood can make good comedies. If only it would more often.
So far, Hollywood can’t make good Parker movies–not even “Point Blank”, which I think is a great film, and so did Westlake, but it’s a rival vision inspired by Parker.
Hackford hasn’t had a success in a long time. The screenwriter doesn’t have much of a track record–his biggest credit to date is “Black Swan”, and he doesn’t seem to have been the main writer on that.
If it brings more attention to the books, great. But don’t get your hopes up. I’m just saying.
Well, we’re going to disagree on a couple of things. This is from Jesse Sublett’s interview of Westlake. (Sublett is a fellow Austinite and an occasional crime novelist, but strangely, I’ve never met him). This is one of only two or three essential Westlake interviews I’ve read. (I don’t feel like messing with tags right now, but it’s linked on the Extras page. Read the whole thing if you haven’t.)
Austin Chronicle: Let’s talk about the remake [Payback].
DW: I don’t know too much about it. They never came to us, we went to them. My agent read in Daily Variety that they were going to do a movie called Parker. We got in touch with them and said, well, there are lots of things you can do but you can’t do a movie called Parker because you don’t own the name.
AC: Oh, is that why the Parker character is always named something besides Parker? How did that get started?
DW: Because Lee Marvin wouldn’t do sequels. He just refused to do sequels. So you don’t use up the name on a guy who’s never gonna do another one. The second time, The Split, Jim Brown played the lead, and he wasn’t gonna do a whole bunch of them either, so again, we said you can’t use the name. And then it sort of became a habit. They own the remake rights but they don’t own the name. We tried to work out a deal, because Brian Helgeland really wanted to use the name, and we tried to work out something that would be fair for everybody but it just wasn’t possible, so I don’t know what they’re calling him, but…
[end of excerpt]
Also, Grofield hates movies. He’s a stage purist. (God, I’m a geek.)
Plus Westlake wrote several screenplays (a few unproduced, which I need to get to at some point). I haven’t seen or read many of them, but the films are not well reviewed with the exceptions of The Grifters where he stuck very close to Jim Thompson and The Stepfather where he was only partially responsible for the script. I don’t know if he enjoyed writing for the screen or not, but it’s quite possible that he just wasn’t that good at it, his skills lying elsewhere. And, with the exception of the name Parker, he wasn’t protective at all about the movie versions of his books. He sold off anything and everything anyone would buy, including the Parker novels, so I’m inclined to believe him when he said the series thing was what he was going for with the name Parker.
I can’t swear to this as it’s lost in the bowels of the early days of the Internet, but I know at one point, he sold the rights to the whole series for a premium channel TV show (I think it was Showtime) based on Parker and I’m pretty sure they were going to get to use the name because it was a series. Joel Silver was going to produce it. Now that you’ve prompted that memory, I’ll see if I can find out if they had the name rights or not.
Hackford directed Ray not that long ago, and it took home a statue or two. He’s been hit or miss for sure, but he’s got some pretty impressive stuff on his resume. Dolores Claiborne is a personal favorite, and shows that he gets characters, which is important here. (It also shows he can do noir, although Flashfire isn’t all that noir so it isn’t really relevant. Now if he sticks around for The Sour Lemon Score…)
I’m not predicting the movie is going to be a classic or anything like that. I’ll be happy with a seven out of ten. But I know they’re trying, and I know that the people involved, including the cast, were excited to be involved. So I’m guardedly optimistic.
But I’m not pinning my hopes or dreams on it or anything. I’ll be happy if it’s halfway decent, reasonably faithful, and gets a few more folks to pick up the books. After over forty years of getting Parker wrong on screen, it would be silly to expect that to change in January with a Jason Statham vehicle.
I know FX was talking about doing a Parker television show back in 2002. As I’ve mentioned before, Alexander Ignon even wrote a pilot for this proposed series based on The Green Eagle Score. The script is horrible. Absolutely horrible.
The television series info can be found here…
Here’s the text that can be found from the link…
“According to the January 15, 2002 issue of Daily Variety: “The Parker novel series, which Westlake wrote under the pen name Richard Stark, has been acquired for series treatment by FX net entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly….” Alexander Ignon adapted The Green Eagle Score for the pilot. “Westlake…liked Ignon’s work and blessed the series. It’ll be an original caper for Parker and will be written in the vein of The Sopranos and Heat, with the idea that a massive heist will be perpetrated over the course of a season, the setup building over episodes until the actual crime is perpetrated.”
I also just found this, which is the actual article and not just the basic information surrounding the project.
“Daily Variety (online) – Michael Fleming – Mon., Jan. 14, 2002. WESTLAKE GOES SERIES ROUTE: While he awaits a studio for his Bad News, Donald Westlake received good news for his most famous fictional creation, the character of Parker, the unredeemable but principled villain played by Mel Gibson in Payback and Lee Marvin portrayed in Point Blank. The Parker novel series, which Westlake wrote under the pen name Richard Stark, has been acquired for series treatment by FX net entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly, who commissioned a pilot script. The project was set up at Fireworks by producers Dylan Sellers and Tom Lassally, with a script being written by Alexander Ignon (Ransom), who adapted the Westlake novel The Green Eagle Score for Sellers and Warner Bros., with Steve Norrington attached to direct. Westlake, whose other novel adaptations include The Grifters and The Hot Rock liked Ignons’ work and blessed the series. It’ll be an original caper for Parker, and will be written in the vein of The Sopranos and Heat, with the idea that a massive heist will be perpetrated over the course of a season, the setup building over episodes until the actual crime is perpetrated.
Same story straight for the Variety webpage.
No mention of Joel Silver in any of this, but there WAS supposed to be a Parker television series at some point in time. Why nobody has bothered to do this is a modern fucking mystery to me.
This got stuck in pending because of the links, and I didn’t notice until just now. I apologize. Great information.
The Ignon script for Green Eagle was originally intended to be a motion picture, and at one point John Travolta(!) was attached to play Parker. I have a copy. I didn’t make it past page four, although I’ll have to at some point as a matter of duty.
Somewhere deep in my non-posted archives I have the Joel Silver info (maybe), and some other stuff, although you’ve covered most of it. Yeah, it’s really time to do some research and then a post on The Series That Never Was.
First of all, Grofield LOVES movies. He’s constantly hearing movie themes in his head, role-playing as various types of movie heroes. There’s no doubt whatsoever that he goes to them constantly. Yes, he’s a stage purist, but the REASON he’s a stage purist–and addicted to running his own theater, which most stage actors never do, because it’s incredibly hard and financially unrewarding work–is that he wants total control over his artistic output. Like a novelist. Like Westlake.
I read the Westlake comments (I believe I’ve seen them before), and I understand why you feel they agree with your interpretation, but I feel they agree with mine, so let’s leave it there.
His selling the rights to Showtime wouldn’t disagree with my take, because he’d think cable TV could possibly get Parker right, and they’d be doing all the novels. They sure as hell wouldn’t be starting with Flashfire–what’s up with that? You have an explanation for why they’d start with one of the two or three weakest and least typical books in the series? Westlake would be shaking his head about that. They can’t possibly adapt that one faithfully, because it’s not written as an entry-point to the series, so they have to jigger around with it a lot. You must know as well as I do that you never take anything commercial filmmakers say in interviews as gospel. They will ALWAYS say “We’re being faithful to the original”. And they mean it. In their fashion.
Ray is a schmaltzy biopic, centered around Jamie Foxx’s scenery-chewing performance, which is what won it the Oscars–it’s not one for the ages, and given that Parker is coming out in 2013, I think we can say it’s been a long time since Hackford had a success. And I don’t think Parker is breaking his streak, but unlike our varying interpretations of Grofield and his creator, that won’t be a matter of opinion forever.
I’d be happy with a three out of ten. I don’t think I’m going to get it, though.
And your last sentence sums it all up beautifully. Peace, out.
Oh, I forgot one thing–yes, Dolores Claiborne has its defenders–I’ve never warmed to it–but one might observe that Hackford’s big commercial and/or critical successes all came with outstanding actors playing his leads. I mean, just having Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh in the same film–well, it’s better than having Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez, no? And both actors are far past the peak of their popularity now.
I think we can agree there’ll be no Oscar nods for this one. Hackford has come way down in the world. I think he’s out of his element with Parker, but even granting that he’s shown some flexibility over his career, a director who has mightily depended on stars with serious acting chops is going to struggle when faced with a cast like this. Yeah, Nick Nolte–probably be in about ten minutes of the film, if that. Another actor who could have played Parker–much better than Statham. Just going to remind us of what might have been.
Was it film music that Grofield had going through his head in the early ones? I remember it as classical, although I could well be wrong. Been a long time since I read them. (The Score forward is where I’m at in my re-reads.) The character changed a lot throughout the course of his Parker and solo novels. By his later appearances, he’d become quite the theater snob. And the soundtrack-in-his-head thing disappears entirely.
Somewhere, there is an essay to be written about Westlake’s obsession with the theater.
Selling the rights to Showtime was a much different and less prestigious deal at the time Westlake did so (this would have been around 1999) than it is now. Today, premium channels have a reputation for producing quality TV, but they didn’t back then unless I’m forgetting (again) something. This was long before The Sopranos. I wonder what would have happened? Hell, I wonder what did happen. I’m getting all sorts of ideas for new avenues of investigation today, aren’t I?
I may be the only one who is defending the casting of J-Lo, and, given the entirety of her career (including her godawful music career), I understand that entirely. But she was in Out of Sight, and quite good in it, which I assume is the reason she was cast. When I heard she was cast as the over-ambitious real estate agent, I thought “Perfect!” because I could picture it instantly. But she hasn’t done anything useful in a long time, so it could just be wishful thinking on my part.
Why Flashfire? Most people like it much better than you did, but no one’s going to argue that it’s in the top five Parker books. My guess is that it could be produced with a modest budget and could be done fairly straight without modernization (how could The Score work in this day of cell phones and Internet? You could find a way, but it would be a vastly different story). It isn’t an obvious pick, for sure.
If they’d asked me what modern Parker book to film fairly straight with a modest budget, I probably would have pointed them to Backflash.
Will it work? Dunno. They’re filming it fairly close to the source, though, although they do borrow a setpiece for the opening from one of the other second-series Parkers (don’t remember which one). And that’s all the insight I’ve got.
Nolte would have made a great Parker fifteen or twenty years ago! I’m just happy he’s in it. I’m also encouraged by the casting of Michael Chiklis, who is never bad in anything. I’m happy about the casting overall, even Statham if I put my reservations about his accent aside. It’s got enough good ingredients that it could well add up to an enjoyable flick. And no, no Oscar nominations, but given most of the things that get them these days, I’d wear that as a badge of honor.
I don’t think it will be any worse than mediocre which would make it much better than most “Parker” movies, and I’m hoping for good fun. Fingers crossed!
Speaking of Nolte, have you seen Who’ll Stop the Rain based on Robert Stone’s Dog Soldiers? Another thing I’ve been meaning to write about.
I just ordered the new editions of The Dame and The Blackbird, but I have a first edition of The Damsel, and yeah, Grofield hears film scores in his head, and consciously acts out movie roles, and Westlake does this very deliberately. He’s telling us “Here’s a guy who is obsessed with movies, playfully uses screen heroes as role models to keep his courage up in tight situations–and yet he refuses to appear in movies or TV, even though it would solve his money problems.”
In Lemons Never Lie, we’re told he’s stopped doing that–in a sense, LNL is more about Grofield’s real life–or lives, really–his life with Mary, and his life as a heister. The other three novels are about Grofield out of his normal element and therefore he’s more inclined to draw on movies he’s seen for cues–all the more since the situations he’s in recall various cinematic genres.
Westlake is talking about himself here-in this regard, he’s the model for Grofield. Yes, he wrote screenplays, and he was good enough at it to get an Oscar nomination–for adapting somebody else’s novel (he rarely got to adapt his own work). He always went back to books, but he could have clearly made a lot more money a lot more quickly with a lot less work if he’d devoted more time to screenwriting.
Just like Grofield, he has to work a lot harder, and live closer to the margin, because of his refusal to sell out. And yet, just like Grofield, he’s not pretentious at all–he recognizes the value of movies, and he recognizes that what he does isn’t necessarily so perfect either–but just like Grofield, Westlake is looking for freedom to do things his own way. And that freedom comes with a hefty price tag.
Movie references abound in Westlake’s work. He was enormously influenced by the crime films of the 30′s, 40′s, 50′s, and beyond. He’d never deny that. He originally modeled Parker after Jack Palance. Mitch Tobin goes to a party thrown by gay men, and somebody thinks he’s wearing “Warner Brothers drag.” He wrote a whole series of books about a cop turned TV actor turned detective. He feels the pull of Hollywood–and he’s always consciously resisting it, and mocking it. He wants to be a commercial writer–he’s not looking for any ivory tower to hide in–but he’s always walking that line between being a professional and being a hack. And a hack is somebody who writes something he doesn’t really feel, just to get paid.
There’s this enormous ambivalence he feels about his love of film–because he knows all too well that the industry tends to be rough on individual visions–that you never get exactly what you were aiming for, that there’s always too many cooks spoiling the broth, that they keep drawing you further and further in, until you’ve lost yourself. That you have to compromise a hell of a lot most of the time, and writers most of all.
He said as much in several interviews–that film has a lot of advantages, both artistic and financial, but that he just couldn’t deal with the loss of control. In a book he can do it exactly the way he wants to–if he compromises, it’s on his terms, not somebody else’s.
And yes, this would make a great article. :)
Anyway, Backflash would have been a much better choice. But please note–if they’re doing Flashfire because it’s set closer to the present day, that means we’re not going to see ANY of the original 16 novels–you can’t adapt them faithfully in the present day, and they can’t go back to the 60′s and 70′s, having started the franchise in the here and now.
Why not start with Comeback? As a pure heist story, far and away the best of the final eight. More sex, more violence, great supporting characters, never lets up for a moment.
I’ll tell you why–because Parker steals from a religious revival–never mind that the evangelist is a fraud. Hollywood gets nervous when Parker steals from anybody but other crooks. They always have to clean him up.
And they just love shooting in warm climates.
Comeback is not a favorite of mine, for reasons I laid out in my review. It could film well, though. Scott Smith (A Simple Plan) was commissioned to write and at least started writing a screenplay based on it. No idea if he finished it, no idea what happened to that project, and unfortunately I don’t have a copy of whatever he produced.
I loved A Simple Plan, so was disappointed that that project went into oblivion.
And you’re right, picking a book from the original series and doing it faithfully would be tough. There are some that could be done, though. Slayground comes to mind, and The Sour Lemon Score. I’m not a huge fan, but Deadly Edge could work on film as well. You could do some of the others if you could write them in a way to account for modern technology. In The Score, maybe they find a way to take out all the cell phone towers first. Maybe they deploy an EMP. (OK, that wouldn’t be too faithful.)
I honestly don’t think you can do Parker up right without making a period film. Westlake worked hard to bring him into the modern era, and the final 8 must be considered a success, but we both know the original 16 are by far the best (okay, maybe not The Black Ice Score), and he belongs back in that era.
And that means money, sure, but not megabucks. Good period films can be made without breaking the bank. They’re doing period all the time on TV now. The era the best Parkers are set in is actually pretty hot now. Missed boat.
Why is Nolte reportedly playing Parker’s ‘mentor’, when there is no such character in Flashfire, or really anywhere in the series–is he playing Joe Sheer (who died in a much earlier novel), or some guy we never heard of before?
We barely know anything about this film, and we can already spot a bunch of ways in which it isn’t faithful to the book. Not a good sign. Neither is the screenwriter’s IMDb page.
I’m not going to take anyone seriously who says “We’re going to be 100% faithful to the character”, then starts with Flashfire. And hires Jlo. And puts Parker in a cowboy hat. Yeesh.
Statham’s accent is the absolute least of their problems.
Parker is in a cowboy hat in the novel. He’s pretending to be an oilman. He also wore a mustache in the book, but they deviated there.
Take what you read in the press with not just pinch of salt, but a block of rock salt. I’ve commented on the inaccuracies that I know about a time or two here. Nolte is not Parker’s mentor, no matter what The Daily Hollywood Variety Grapevine or whatever reports. He plays Hurley, Michael Chiklis plays Melander, both characters in the book.
JGA’s comment was stuck in pending by mistake, and I just approved it. If you haven’t seen it, scroll up.
Uggh, couple of days without checking the sight and I walk in the middle of a minefield;-)
First off, I have had Pronzini’s Connell books in my queue for a while, Joel. But thanks for the recommendation; they seem a lot more urgent now that you made the comparison to Stark!
Secondly, sorry to be a surprise to you Chris Lyons. We’ve had our verbal tussles over at IMDB, and at the time I thought you could have been a tad nicer in the way you disagree with someone, but you seem a bit more cool now, or maybe my Chris Lyons tolerance level has risen. In either case, I happen to think you’re a higly intelligent and analytical human being. But you obviously have very rigid beliefs. And that’s cool. Really. I just feel there’s no right or wrong about these matters. It’s like you saying Peach pie is excellent and me saying it’s horrible–are either of us really wrong? It’s subjective, a matter or taste.
Yes, I’d like to see a Parker continuation series. The character and the template/style of the stories are iconic and simple enough to be continued. The Parker novels written by a highly qualified author approved by the estate would be different, probably not as great (although that’s not certain) as Westlake’s, but so what? I would still like to read new fiction starring Parker. If it turned out to be horrendous, so what? Doesn’t change the quality of the first 24 one iota. If it turned out to be great, that’s one more thing I can look forward to in this dreary life to give me pleasure.
In my mind, it would be easier to continue the Parker saga than, say, Travis McGee, becuase McGee was so complex and intrinsicly JDM. Parker is rather simple, character-wise. He has no inner philosophical complexities like McGee does. He’s almost a robot-like character whose only goal is to rob your loot.
Yes, I agree with Trent: I am looking forward to the Statham film. All I can say is a Parker movie is something I’m going to be excited about whether Statham plays him or Peter Coyote plays him, whether he’s called Harker or Cocker or Door Knocker, whether he has a British accent or whether he has a Swahili accent. I found the choice of Jim Brown highly questionable but when I pop the DVD in I’m still going to have that anticipatory butterflies in the belly feeling because it’s connected to Stark/Parker and at least there’s the chance I’ll be happily surprised.
Hackford is no genius, but I happen to think he’s a tad better than you give him credit for. I’m just hoping for the best and hoping the film becomes a series (if it turns out at least decent).
Chris–it’s all good, brother.
David, that’s an awful lot of words, and not really saying anything you haven’t said already. All I can say is that none of this boundless faith and optimism glass half-full look for the silver lining stuff is very Westlake-ian. ;)
Trent, I checked the novel after that photo of Statham showed up online, thinking maybe I’d just forgotten the cowboy hat, or mentally blocked it out.
It’s a yachting cap. Not a cowboy hat.
And all this discussion is proving is that they really shouldn’t have picked Flashfire.
You’re right about that one.
This tells us that the screenplay improves on the novel in at least one aspect. I won’t claim to know a bunch of rich oilmen, but I have lived in Texas for quite some time, and a Stetson is much more likely to be worn than a yachting cap.
Can’t speak for folks in Florida, though. Maybe they wear them there.
They didn’t have to have him wear ANY hat. What works in a book doesn’t always work in a movie. If they’re not going to have him dressed as yachting garb, which is what makes sense for a rich guy at a Florida coastal resort town, then they could just have him wear regular rich guy clothes, and blend in.
In Florida, a yachting cap is less attention-grabbing, and the last thing Parker ever wants is to draw undue attention to himself. Rich oilmen can wear whatever the hell they want to wear. He’s not posing as a cattle baron. And btw, I don’t think the hat Statham is wearing is a Stetson. Not that I’m an expert on cowboy headware or anything.
They can explain it any way they want, but it undercuts the credibility of the character, and the movie.
And yeah, I’ve seen reference to these various attempts to bring Parker to cable TV.
And they keep foundering on one basic fact–Hollywood just doesn’t get Parker. Doesn’t know what to do with him. Can’t deal with the fact that he’s not a good guy, or a bad guy, a hero or an anti-hero, or a villain–he’s just a guy. Who does what he needs to do, and doesn’t worry about it after he does it.
Tony Soprano goes to a shrink.
The drug dealer on Breaking Bad was trying to save his family.
Dexter is saving the world from serial killers.
Parker just wants the money.
It’s too simple.
They don’t get it.
In the Green Eagle Score screenplay that Trent mentioned above, Parker’s motivation for doing the robbery was to avenge the death of his 19 year old brother, who had learning difficulties.
Yeah, 99% of the time we should be grateful these things don’t get made.
While a good successful film might temporarily raise Parker’s profile, I think we should realize that the books speak for themselves. Payback didn’t do nearly as much to raise awareness of the novels as the U. of Chicago reprints.
There’s no way he’ll ever be done right in the movies–the movie adaptations may, occasionally, be worth seeing. But movies as a whole are a dying artform. Most of the best films ever made came out before I was old enough to drive. Now and again, somebody sneaks something worthwhile through.
Can you take the kids to see a faithful Parker adaptation? Nope. You’d need an R rating.
Is there a single male actor on the planet now who can play Parker whose name sells a lot of tickets? Tom Cruise, Will Smith, Johnny Depp–need I go on? You’ve got to be pretty to be a big movie star today.
Is there a single big name director out there now who knows how to do crime fiction? Tarantino does, but the one time he tried do adapt an Elmore Leonard, it was 1)an homage to blaxploitation films, and 2)a flop. Still, he’d be my pick. As long as he didn’t cast Uma Thurman as Parker. Though man, she’d have been ideal as one of those cool blondes that show up so often in the Stark novels. The other thing about Tarantino is that he loves the era the Parker novels are set in, and he knows how to portray that era believably without spending a ton of cash. I just don’t see him doing another crime novel adaptation, though. Not a chance in hell of him doing a whole series of Parker movies. Not his thing.
See, any director with enough vision and moxie to really make a great Parker movie wouldn’t NEED to make a whole series of Parker films. Hackford is looking for something to latch onto. He’s running out of juice, and a franchise would give him some breathing space. But c’mon–the odds of anybody faithfully adapting all or most or half or even 20% of the novels is zero. And it always was. And Westlake always knew that.
But there is HBO. Showtime would screw it up–their stuff is too shallow, too gimmicky. HBO could pull it off. Do I think they will? No. But if it’s ever going to be done, and done right, it’ll be HBO.
Btw, David–sorry I was a bit brusque–in a mood, yesterday.
I’d agree Parker is not as wordy as Travis McGee, who I sometimes like to think of as Philip Marlowe with a tan. Parker has depths, but he doesn’t choose to share them with us. McGee wants us to understand him, Parker doesn’t care if we ever do.
And yet Point Blank, the best film based on a Parker novel, has a deluxe DVD edition, remastered, with extras–and Darker than Amber, the best (and only) theatrical film based on a Travis McGee novel, is only available as a crappy bootleg. Yeah, and there was a TV movie with Sam Elliot, that wasn’t even set in Florida.
I really do want to see Darker than Amber, and even more to read the Travis McGee novels, but maybe this is not the place to talk about the superiority of John D. MacDonald? If you don’t see the depths of Richard Stark, maybe it’s time you looked a little closer.
Chris, again you misunderstand me. Where did I ever claim JDM’s “superiority” over DEW? Where did I state I couldn’t see the depths of Richard Stark?
All I wrote was if a writer were to create a new Travis mcGee novel, there would be inherent problems, and that those same problems would not exist if one were to write a new Parker. That’s all. Doesn’t mean JDM is “deeper” than Stark. I actually consider JDM and DEW similiarly brilliant. As an aside, you should read the McGee novels: they’re awesome.
Parker may indeed have philosphical inclinations; but we never hear them. Which, in a way, is awesome. Sometimes McGee got too “preachy”. The Turquoise Lament has McGee actually breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the reader, advising him/her to send letters to their congressmen about Enviornmental protection. And McGee’s constant puritanical ramblings about sex got tired after a while, especially considering, for all McGee’s whining about sexual responsibility, he nailed every female within a fifty mile radius.
I am a Stark/Parker fan every bit as much as I am of any other writer/character, and every bit as much as you, or Trent, or anyone else on here. Stark is awesome. Doesn’t mean there can never be another great Parker novel written by another writer. If we disagree on that, then hey, s’all good.
And let me clarify something: my questioning the sense of releasing TCIF and my championing further adventures of Parker are in no way hypocritical. We don’t know if DEW wanted TCIF out there. Maybe he felt it was weak writing? The only manuscript found was in Max Collins’ possession. But they put it out anyway. OK. You wrote something about “no writer has the right to hold back his unpublished writings from the public”, or something similiar, and after much thought, I could see your point.
But does a writer have a right to hold back a literary character’s evolution? Especially if he left no proviso no one write any future novels with those characters? Ian Fleming wrote his Bond novels. After his death many more were written, of various quality, but they kept the character, along with the films, in the forefront of the public’s imagination.
So there is no hypocrisy there, at least not from me. And if anything, a writer having had an unpublished, unauthorised manuscript published could be more damaging to said writer’s memory, because if the writing is weak, that could stain said writer’s previous reputation.
But if a deceased writer’s literary creation spawns new fictional works by other writers, the worse that could happen is those books would suck and only show how great the original writer was. And the best thing that could happen is everybody would have new fictional works featuring their favorite character that were actually very good in their own right, only showering more attention and praise on the original writer for having created such a brilliant character in the first place. Win-win situation.
Class is out. Case closed.
Yes, case closed. Because no such books are in the offing, and I doubt they ever will be.
And it would actually be much easier to imitate the Travis McGee books, because he’s a common type of character in crime fiction, going back to The Continental Op, and probably earlier–the longwinded P.I. who tells us of his cases in the first person. And I don’t think that’s a good idea either–MacDonald is a legend, and rightly so.
But Parker, the thief and killer who doesn’t give a damn what anybody thinks of him, shares nothing of his inner self, and yet somehow gets us rooting for him–he’s still quite unique. And we don’t need more books to establish that.
And I do kinda think the fact that you’re okay with no more McGee, but hunger for more Parker says something you actually don’t want to say out loud, but that’s very Westlake-ian–or should I say Tucker Coe-ian? ;)
What does Point Blank having a deluxe DVD out and Darker Than Amber not, prove? What does that mean? Is it germane to anything we were debating?
Probably that John Boorman is a better director than–um–drawing a blank here……
Game of Thrones season 2 debuts tonight! Yay! Anyone else excited?
Chris–this is “Stark” related. One of GOT’s main characters is named “Ned Stark”. A tip of the hat to DEW?
Or Iron Man. How the hell would I know? Game of Thrones was worth the wait, and that’s what matters.
Chris, you’re displaying your penchant for inconsistency here as well as you did on IMDB. You claim to know Point Blank is a better film than Darker Than Amber–yet you haven’t SEEN Darker Than Amber so how the fuck would you know???!!!
As intelligent as you are, there are obvious flaws in your logic. Logic would dictate one would need to have seen both films to claim one is better than the other, or one was better-directed than the other.
You call JDM’s McGee a longwinded, common character, yet in yesterday’s post you admitted never having read a McGee novel. WTF???!!!
Very probably there will not be a continuation of the Parker OR McGee novels. Just because an idea is good doesn’t mean it’s likely to come to fruition. I think it’s a good idea for you to not act like a spoiled seven year old brat and write bitchy posts and act as if you’re the final word on everything. But the odds are you will continue to do so (sigh).
We agree MacDonald is a legend. We agree Stark/Westlake is a legend. You seem to continually insist I place JDM on a higher pedestal and yet you now hint I secretly favor Stark. Which is it? I told you before and I’ll tell you again: I love their work equally. I am probably higher on Stark/Parker right now because he is a newer discovery, and I am still in the process of reading new (to me)DEW books, a true joy if ever there was one. I would also place a few other writers in that lofty category, such as James Crumley and Ross Thomas.
Let’s just drop this topic, Chris, and agree to disagree? OK?
Gee, what a great idea. Why didn’t I think of that? Imagine me rolling my eyes now.
That’s not hard to imagine, Chris;-) lol
I’m sure it isn’t. FYI, I’ve read about Travis McGee, and I know that 1)those novels are written in the first person, 2)anyone whose recounting of an episode in his life takes up an entire book is, by definition, long-winded, 3)we’ve seen scores of similarly long-winded investigators in crime fiction, before and after McGee, even granting McGee is one of the half-dozen or so most distinctive of them, and 4)you’ve expressed opinions about things you haven’t personally seen or read, just like everybody else on the internet. Hell, you’re saying Parker novels not written by Donald Westlake would be cool, and NOBODY has ever read one of those.
Peace, out. ;)
Hey, man, sorry if I came across a little rude in my last email: I honestly don’t want to hurt your feelings, Chris. Sometimes you can seem a little demeaning to other people, maybe it’s just me being overly sensitive?
I’m willing to admit this is a valid possibility. I’ve gone through some issues as a young adult that caused me to be very self-conscious and sensitive to people’s comments, and I admit I need to be thicker-skinned.
I’m just of the opinion that debates and disagreements can be fine and even fun as long as respect for the other person is there. I’m sorry we seem to butt heads; I do respect and admire your articles and intelligence. I really have found everybody on this site to write very interesting posts and have valid opinions even if I disagree with them.
Let’s just try to respect each other’s opinions, even if we disagree. Believe me, if I didn’t value your opinions and ideas, I wouldn’t even be bothering to write these words:-)
BTW, are you a fan of Martin’s Fire and Ice books? I think the adaptations by HBO are very, very good. Far better than we have a right to expect. If only HBO could do the same for Parker…
Best regards and have a wonderful day:-)
One last comment before I call this a done deal:
No, I’ve absolutely NEVER critiqued, reviewed, spoken about, commented on, the quality of a book, record, film, play, whatever, WITHOUT having seen/read/heard said book, movie, record, film, play.
I may have given an impression of what I THINK a book or whatever may be–quality wise, as I did with the DVD of The Split, but it would always be with the addendum I haven’t actually seen the film or book and could be absolutely wrong. As my initial impressions often are.
To do otherwise is simply lying, isn’t it?
Mmmm, no. Much as I wish it were the case, this is not a done deal.
Could I ask a little favor? Would you admit everything I said about Travis McGee and Darker than Amber was factually true? Including my IMPRESSIONS of those works, which by definition can’t possibly be wrong, since they’re MY impressions, and presented as such? I think the confusion here is that you confuse opinions with fact. I never do. And it’s always very clear to any reasonably perceptive person when I’m stating an opinion, and when I’m stating a fact. Like for example “The Parker novels were written by Donald Westlake”–undoubted fact. “Parker is a wolf in human form”–a rather fanciful opinion, that can never actually be proven or disproven. Now to me it’s pretty obvious which is which, but maybe some people need me to make it clear which is which? I name no names.
As to the Fire & Ice books, I haven’t read those (except for skimming parts of the first one online), so even though I’m an avid fan of the series (and don’t want to know what’s going to happen in it before it does) I can never discuss them with anyone. It’s agin’ the law.
Chris, I can definitely agree with you that everyone has a right to an impression, but would you also agree that sometimes one can be lead into a false impression based on insuffecient or even false data?
The first McGees are unneccessarily wordy. Sometimes JDM would have secondary characters go SIX to SEVEN pages in expository dialogue!!! It used to make me want to throw the f*****g (oops, Trent, almost released another F-Bomb;-) lol It made me want to throw the dang book across the room. And McGee sometimes did wax philosophical at the story’s expense, so yes, you have merit in that impression.
But–the later books were much trimmed down affairs and McGee showed more than talked, for a large part.
Now as for Point Blank VS. Darker Than Amber.
Here I feel we will not agree.
See, I think Point Blank is… Well, it’s a good movie, but I would not say it’s one of my favorites. Actually, I don’t think Boorman is that great a director, although I did like The General and Deliverance, I despised Excorcist 2 and Emerald City. Not sure what else he has done, offhand.
PB is not my ideal Parker film, and Marvin, although he has the almost robot-like aspects of Parker down, is kind of old to be playing the part (I know, it’s Walker, but we all know he only did the piece because he was fascinated by the character of Parker). And the fact that so many people claim Walker is a wraith and not a physical human is irritating to me.
DTA is fun. The scenery is fun. Rod Taylor (one of my favorite actors) is fun. The script was not the best, and the direction was more suited for a 1970′s era ABC movie of the week, but the fight scene at the end is alone worth the price of admission.
Travis McGee, discovered by me around 13 Y/O, was so meaningful for me. The books taught me so much about being a man: Travis effected the way I think and look at the world (always be non-conformist and skeptical of authority), the way I’ve treated my girlfriends in romantic relationships (always respect women and treat her as a human being first and foremost, not a sexual toy), really in many many ways.
So it was harsh to hear him called “Just Philip Marlowe with a tan”. He really is way more than that and I would state JDM was twice the writer Chandler was. In my estimation, he was as good as DEW.
(By the way DEW has effected me greatly these last couple years, as has the Parker character, but I’m not planning any bank heists in the near future;-) lol Although I do find myself rooting for the bad guy more often;-)
I’m not such a huge admirer of Chandler’s myself, but there would never have been a Travis McGee if there hadn’t been a Philip Marlowe first, and a Sam Spade before him, and The Continental Op before that, and I’m sure a bunch of other influences. But a writer can surpass his influences, no question–Westlake did.
If the best part of DTA is that fight scene, I’ve seen that, and it doesn’t remotely match up to the worst scene in Point Blank. It’s fun, yes. Never thought otherwise. But Point Blank is a great movie. It really doesn’t seem like DTA is, and my saying so hardly qualifies as a lie, as long as I don’t tell you that I’ve seen it. In a sense, you haven’t either, since you presumably have only watched a crappy bootleg of it. Perhaps in a fully restored version, it would be more impressive, but nobody was much impressed when it came out in theaters, and that’s why it’s mainly disappeared.
I’d watch it just for Rod Taylor (who had a certain significance to my boyhood), but I keep hoping they will restore it someday.
Thanks for sharing that about McGee influencing you as a boy. I felt that way about The Rockford Files (which was quite certainly influenced by MacDonald, among others).
Now admitting I don’t really know McGee yet, do you think he’d freak out if somebody called him Philip Marlowe with a tan? Maybe you’re not done learning yet. ;)
Just a quickie about Fire and Ice. My favorite character without a doubt is Tyrion Lannister. But I’ve always had a fondness for dwarves in literature–Puck in Marvel Comics’ Alpha Flight, Mongo The Magnificent by George C. Chesbro is one of my favorite characters, now Tyrion.
Don’t know what that’s about. I’m six two barefoot so it’s not that I identify with them because of lack of height. I think it’s because they are much easier to root for due to their underdog status and the fact I’ve gone through much of my early life, and even sometimes now, feeling like an outsider myself.
At a certain point, you realize everybody feels like an outsider, and some just cover it better than others.
The fight scene was a fun and exciting part of the film, but there were other good things. The soundtrack by John Parker was superb. Real catchy and memorable. Taylor was pretty darn good as ol’ Trav even though he was a good deal shorter than his literary equivilant;-) Anybody else think Taylor resembles a young Robin Williams, or is it just me? But, again, I would never confuse what the public thinks is a good movie with what constitutes a good movie for my particular taste; there have been scores of films that have disappeared without a glug that I really liked, and many that were hailed as “masterpieces” that only inspired insomnia in me.
Rod Taylor is awesome, I’ve seen most of his films –you must really love Dark of the Sun, since it has both Taylor and Brown. And I was also a huge Rockford fan as a young man, and caught the McGee influence as well. There were actual parts of episodes of Rockford that were based on JDM scenarios or good portions thereof. Rockford, the Equalizer, both came on weekday afternoons when I was a teenager and I watched every episode. No wonder I was an outsider, while my classmates were going to concerts and hanging out at the mall, I was home cheering on James Garner and Edward Woodward;-) lol
I like Dark of the Sun, but it could have been a lot better. Jack Cardiff was probably the greatest cinematographer of all time, but he was less impressive as a director (with somebody else doing the lensing). Still, infinitely better than the uncredited Antoine Fuqua remake, Tears of the Sun, with Bruce Willis.
It never seems natural for Jim Brown to die, and yet they kept killing him off in nearly all the movies where he wasn’t the lead. Were they paying him by the hour or something?
No, I can’t say I ever saw the slightest resemblance between Rod Taylor and Robin Williams.
Obviously great movies can fail to appeal to a given person’s taste, and bad movies can appeal mightily.
I must say something, and please don’t be hurt.
I finally checked out a Travis McGee. The Green Ripper. Only one I could find at the library. I know it’s not considered typical of the series (for example, it’s the only one to win a National Book Award), but I have to say–he’s never going to be my hero. And frankly, ‘long-winded’ doesn’t half say it. Did the man ever have an unexpressed thought? :\
I found it touching how he lost the love of his life on page 33, was flirting with the idea of going to bed with another woman on page 51. By page 221, he’s on a yacht with yet another woman, and seems to have gotten over his grief. Well, wiping out a terrorist cell by yourself can be very cathartic, I understand.
It’s not just that I admire Parker more. It’s that I admire DORTMUNDER more.
It’s just stories, you know.
Tastes differ. That’s all you can ever say about it. And mine veer much more to Westlake. How I would have felt about it at age 13–well, I would have probably liked the sex scenes. ;)
Chirs, I have to admit I laughed quite a bit about your impressions of McGee and the Green Ripper;-) Agreed, Green Ripper is not a “normal” McGee in that it doesn’t follow the basic set-up JDM has McGee go through in most novels–a wonded “Bird”–hot young female– with a problem, McGee administering theraputic sex while reclaiming a looted family fortune, etc. But one of the things I really liked about the novel was McGee’s ruiminations on the death of a loved one.
McGee does express his opinions on everything–which again would make it hard for a writer other than JDM to do a McGee novel–because McGee was JDM. Or at least his fictionalized version of himself. JDM’s thoughts, fears, hopes became Travis’.
And McGee taking out a terrorist cell by himself was a bit of a suspension in disbelief, but all I can
say is we fans willingly suspended said disbelief because we wanted Travis to exact revenge. It did spawn the whole “hero loses loved one and becomes a morose avenger” aspect of detective fiction. Travis is much darker after losing Gretel. The early books feature a more easy-going, sybaritic Travis who only got involved in other people’s problems to fund his beach, booze and broads lifestyle.
Travis’ ideas about sex are … an issue with me. Only because he is so dang hypocritical. This is a topic that got me into hot water on a Yahoo McGee fan group a few years ago. I constantly pointed out McGee’s said hypocrisy and the other members rallied against me. But even McGee admits it in Freefall in Crimson.
If you don’t like McGee or JDM, it’s just a matter of taste, as I’ve only been saying all along. But my humble suggestion would be try another McGee and maybe a non-McGee JDM before casting a final say only because I would never base a judgement on an author’s canon on one book. As you said, The Green Ripper is quite unusual in JDM’s canon.
BTW, if I could recommend one non-McGee to check out, it would be The Last One Left (1966).
Oh I certainly do want to read more of them at some point, but I’ve got a long list of books in all genres and none to get through–including a whole mess of early Westlake I got via Amazon Marketplace.
I get suspending disbelief, but it’s more the WAY he wrote it. Maybe the problem is that he was so influential on the genre that it all comes across as cliche. Probably be more fun to read the earlier ones, where he didn’t take it all so seriously, but I’ve read enough about the series to hazard a guess that the things that bothered me most were present in all of the books. We’ll see.
Westlake, to me, transcends the genre’s limitations–takes well-worn cliches, and makes them into something new and fascinating. There’s a spareness to his prose–he says what needs to be said, and no more. Particularly when writing as Richard Stark, but also as himself, and as Tucker Coe.
McGee has ideas about sex? I think his main idea is to have as much of it as possible, and I’ve no problem with that (show me a middle-aged male who does). But it’s like a kind of noir episode of Bonanza–as soon as he gets too close to a woman, she has to die, so that he can get close to some other woman. The hypocrisy isn’t his, but his author’s–he doesn’t want his hero to be a shallow womanizer, but he wants him to have a whole lot of women (which is, after all, a great way to appeal to male readers)–Travis can’t just dump the latest pretty face and move on to somebody else, because that would be ignoble. He needs those murdering scumbags to kill them, to free up space on the houseboat.
Westlake seems to consciously avoid this pattern (which MacDonald certainly didn’t invent). He doesn’t need to snuff the dame so that the protagonist can go find some other dame. The only woman of Parker’s who dies is the one he more or less kills himself, albeit indirectly.
Also, I’ve been wondering for years who Andrew Greeley (the steamy novel-writing priest) picked up his style from, and now I know. Lifted it directly from ol’ J.D. Mac. They both explain everything to death.
Anyway, I’m really glad you took my critique with such good grace. And I don’t doubt MacDonald was capable of much better. Did you see the movie version of “A Flash of Green” that was done for American Playhouse? Ed Harris, Richard Jordan, Blair Brown. Lovely film. They never show it on TV these days. I’d like to read that novel sometime.
Going back to the original topic: I really like Cooke’s work on Parker, but a part of me wishes it’d been drawn more realistically, more detailed. As a former comic fan, I wonder what Howard Chaykin, Mike Grell, and the like would have done with Parker. But on the whole I really like the graphic novels.
Chaykin’s just recently had a crime serial published in the first eight issues of Dark Horse Presents. It’s called Marked Man, and involves a (somewhat overweight) professional thief who attracts the attention of some people he shouldn’t. It’s pretty good stuff if you’re a fan, but I have no idea if it’s going to be collected any time soon.
Much as I’ve been a fan of Cooke since The New Frontier – and I knew it was coming the second I heard he was going to be working on Parker – I really don’t like the way he plays up the retro aspects of Parker in his adaptations. Maybe it comes from me first discovering Richard Stark in the early 90s (thanks to the shout-out in Stephen King’s The Dark Half) when the setting wasn’t really that long ago, but the 60s novels never felt to me to be totally locked down in their time period, let alone period pieces relying on nostalgia to work for modern readers. It may be more difficult to believe they could be taking place today, but I never felt they could only work in the early-mid 60s and Cooke’s design-heavy approach really screams out the time period in a way that doesn’t quite jibe with the version in my head.
(that said, I too really like the graphic novels on the whole. Cooke’s a great story-teller)
Yes, I’ve seen Flash of Green. They’re currently showing it on the EPIX cable channel. JDM was an enviornmentalist before it was fashionable.
I know what you mean about DEW. I was rereading Comeback the other day and he was describing the inside man helping to arrange the crooked evangelist’s sermon heist with Parker, Liss and Mackey and DEW described a few physical details and ended with “He was also an asshole.” and let the description end there. I laughed out loud. Brilliant. So many other writers would have droned on about how and why the character was an asshole, but DEW just let the statement speak for itself.
DEW is brilliant, and I agree with you he seems cliche-free, at least the books of his I’ve read. At some point I want to read the Mitch Tobin books in order; the only one I’ve read is A Jade in Aries, and that was years ago, well before I truly “discovered” DEW. The reason I read it then was that I’d read the Tobin character was a template for Matt Scudder, Lawrence Block’s ex-alcoholic, ex-cop that I was really into at the time. I remember liking it quite a bit.
Tobin is a great example of Westlake never writing more than he had to write about a character–after five novels, he decided he either had to make Tobin a regular private detective who had dealt with his issues, or kill him off. He didn’t want to do either, so the series just ends. And Tucker Coe with it.
A Jade In Aries is probably the best of the five, but the others are all worth reading. I was struck by how Westlake said he basically got the idea of Tobin from reading Hammett’s The Thin Man–he said Nick Charles was a deeply unhappy man, bored with the work he’s doing, running Nora’s businesses–he’s not temperamentally suited to it, but he can’t see working as a private detective anymore–makes no sense, in his present circumstances, and he’s nothing if not sensible. He can’t leave his wife, because Nora is everything a man could wish for–young, beautiful, affable, understanding, witty, perceptive, and rich–so he just makes up for his feelings of uselessness by slowly drinking himself to death. He doesn’t want to talk about it–even to us in his narration–never wants to talk about his feelings at all. But Nora sees that he needs to be a detective, and it was that aspect of him that attracted her in the first place, so she keeps pushing him to go back to it.
But it was right after this novel that Hammett hit a wall, and couldn’t write anymore. He was married to Lillian Hellmann, a brilliant and exciting young author who adored him, and life should have been good, but somehow it wasn’t. He must have been starting to feel the walls close in even as he wrote The Thin Man. We write what we know.
Westlake, I think, was always looking for ways to make sure those walls never closed in on him. That’s why he had to keep challenging himself, changing names, creating new series, defeating cliches. Because writing for him was like swimming for a shark–if he stopped, he drowned.
1)I put an extra ‘n’ on Hellman.
2)She and Hammett were never actually married.
And that’s what I get for posting before I’ve completely woken up.
Thanks for that info, Tony, I am definitely a fan of Chaykin’s. Been a fan since I was 11 or 12 years old and first discovered American Flagg in my local comic book shop and had my mind blown that it actually showed women’s BREASTS!;-) lol YAY!!! Thank God my father didn’t look to closely at the “Kiddie Books” his son was reading;-)
I actually consider him to be one of the true geniuses and innovaters in the comics field. Unfortunately, I’ve been out of comics for a quite a while, but somehow, since Cooke’s Parker work and 100 Bullets, I find myself getting pulled back in. I will definitely check out Marked Man. That sounds right up my alley.
I, too, do not equate Parker with the 60′s. I just don’t see how the time-period is integral to a Parker story. I understand the fact it would have been easier for Parker to be a criminal in the 60′s, since the technology the Police had to work with back then was primitive by today’s standards, but I always figured someone as resourceful as Parker would adapt to his times quite easily. There are crime fiction characters who need their time period to work, such as Easy Rawlins, Toby Peters, even Philip Marlowe perhaps, but Parker ain’t one of ‘em.
IF all the Parker books get adapted, or most of them at least, I will be a happy trooper. If Cooke decides just to do another 1 or 2, I hope they continue with another writer/artist. There’s quite a few I can think of that will do a great job.
Don’t agree, David. Neither did Westlake, since he showed in the later run of novels how much harder it was getting for Parker to work.
But that’s not the only reason it’s better to set adaptations of the earlier novels in that era.
That era is just more fun.
The music, the cars, the clothes–just better–and the books are so damned specific to the time they appeared in. You’d have to make so many changes. I don’t honestly see the point.
If you set it now, in the dress casual era–with contemporary music–::shudders::
And honestly, something like “The Score”–get real. Think, for half a second, how that’s gonna work, when EVERYBODY IN COPPER CANYON HAS INTERNET ACCESS AND CELLPHONES. Are they going to take down every telecommunications tower for 50 miles?
I mean, GEEZ–there was a kid in Abottabad Pakistan, live-blogging the assault on Osama bin Laden’s compound.
You can’t change eras without heavily rewriting the novels–the first 16 or the final 8. I don’t think anybody’s ever going to adapt them all, but the first 16 have to be set in the 60′s and 70′s.
And anybody even mentions that crappy “Sherlock” series, where The Great Detective is turned into some Gen X nerd, I will throttle him. With my huge veiny hands. :)
I hate to say it, being a self-professed crime fiction fanatic, but I have never read Hammett.
Doing research on Marked Man and came across this article with Chaykin, where he talks about the influence of crime fiction in todays comics. Glad to know he’s a fan of 100 Bullets and Criminal. Marked Man looks really superb.
Yeah, The Score would definitely have to be re-worked. I’m not saying I’m opposed to having the early books filmed as period pieces, I’m just saying Parker is not a character who only works in certain times. If I were hired to direct a Parker film, I’d choose a book like The Score to be filmed as a period piece. Only problem is my dream cast of actors are either dead or very elderly.
When I first started reading the second phase of stories (Comeback to Dirty Money), I wondered how Westlake would approach the fact of Parker being older and operating in modern times. He simply kept Parker the same approximate age as he left him and modernized the world he lives in. So if time and the passing of time is such a non-issue to Westlake, shouldn’t it also be to us?
But again, a moot point, since the odds of all 24 novels being adapted together is nil as far as the movies go (best case scenario would be two or three), and I’ll be much surprised if television ever does it, though it sure would be interesting to see how they coped with the transition between Butcher’s Moon and Comeback. Comeback actually doesn’t transition that much in terms of tech–you could set that in the 70′s–but the later ones do.
Cooke obviously prefers the first 16, and honestly–who doesn’t? The final 8 have amazing moments, answer some key questions, give us some more perspective about who Parker really is (and you know my opinions on that), but there’s no denying they don’t work quite as well. Parker needs room to maneuver, and lots of it. Westlake has to work harder and harder to justify him not getting picked up by the law and identified–and of course in Breakout that happens.
He had to modernize the world, because he wanted the books to feel contemporary when they came out, but thing is, nothing is contemporary for long in this era. Like nobody ever asks Parker if he has a Facebook page. Which btw, I don’t.
So what would be modern NOW would be to take us back to that earlier time, and look at it in a new light. And to remember how much more freedom we used to have. Even if some of us used it in less socially constructive ways than others. ;)
Hey David, I’m a Travis McGee fan myself and like you, I also think highly of the Darker Than Amber film. I recently purchased it from silveragemovies.com. I knew it wouldn’t be a high quality copy, but I just HAD to have it! The DVD I purchased is the one with Dutch subtitles, scenes from which may be found on You Tube. I believe it to be uncut. I have to say, I didn’t expect much but was very pleasantly surprised with this film. I think Rod Taylor was quite good as McGee and Theodore Bikel spot on as Meyer. I wish the movie would have been successful because I think a series of McGee films with those two would have been great. I haven’t read any of the McGee novels in quite awhile and have actually only read 6 of them, but I plan on reading all 21 in order after I finish the Parker series (which I have been leisurely reading in order since last fall, currently halfway through Ask The Parrot). I will definitely be getting into more Westlake at some point but this spring and summer will be spent wherever The Busted Flush will take me.
For sure, you’d have to do a fair bit of damage to the original novels to bring them even remotely up to date. But for me, they just never felt locked into the past. It’s more that most of the things that have altered since the 60s are additions to the world rather than outright changes – Parker was never a big city guy after all and there’s always places out in the country with bad cell reception. Most big money movements are online now but there’s always stuff to steal people will pay big money for, and so on.
I think in the later books DEW realised there was plot mileage in areas he’d taken for granted in the past – I really like the way the end of Dirty Money is the same as the start of The Hunter, only where it took ten minutes and a biro to make a fake ID in the past it now cost what, $300,000? (and required a computer expert). Same story, different way to tell it.
(And honestly? Much as I think the 60s is a fun era, Parker just isn’t a fun guy to me. Mentally at least – and this is another part of DEW’s genius, as he leaves so many blanks for the reader to fill in – I always see him in grubby, run-down, industrial locations that are at least fifty years out of date, driving old cars and wearing nondescript clothes.)
Parker was certainly a big city guy. He just tended to pull his jobs in smaller cities (that Westlake made up). Rarely in rural areas.
If Westlake was still around, he’d keep updating the stories, but I don’t think there’s any point to damaging the earlier books. I mean, you could set War and Peace in modern Russia, and the war is in Chechnya, but why would you want to do that? To me, changing the era a work is set in ruins it. I will not go see Shakespeare performed in anachronistic garb. It’s just distracting. I don’t care if you get every single detail right–I doubt any film or show ever does.
I agree the reader can fill in the blanks for himself. This is not so much Westlake’s genius, as he pointed out once–it’s just that it’s too much work for him to describe every detail, but in a good film adaptation, every item of clothing, the cars they drive, the sets, have to be planned out carefully–there are no insignificant details. All those details are somebody’s job. There have been writers, to be sure, who described every detail of a given scene explicitly and in great detail, and their novels tended to run to five or six hundred pages, or more. Either that or hardly anything happens in them. Sometimes both, if you’ve ever tackled Proust. :)
Parker is actually described as wearing the best clothes when he’s not working. When he is working, he’s wearing clothes that would fit in, which means a jacket and tie a lot of the time. But when he’s looking to kill some guy, he favors a hunting jacket.
I noticed that too about Dirty Money, but please note–now a mobbed-up guy in Jersey who really doesn’t like Parker knows how to find him. Parker knows that too, but it’s an open question–how much further can he run? He and Claire certainly can’t stay at that house much longer. The cops have better and better sketches of him–sooner or later, there’ll be photographs–somebody with an iPhone will catch him when he’s not looking. He can go to Europe now, but they’ve got surveillance cameras everywhere.
It’s just as well for him that the novels ended where they did.
Clue, it’s nice to hear from a fellow Darker Than Amber fan. I often think, as you do, how Taylor would have matured in the role of Trav as Connery did in Bond; I think he would have been awesome. Right off the bat Taylor had that affable grin, lazy beach bum mannerisms. I love how he used a bottle opener to open a bottle of beer from the bottom, something I imagine Trav would’ve done, just a whole bunch of little things he did in his performance that made it special. And I agree Bikel was great too.
You do have the uncut version. There’s a bit of nudity in The Doll House Boutique scene, and the fight scene was the same one on Youtube. I was lucky enough to tape it on VHS in ’90, uncut, and transfer it to DVD about 18 years later.
Did you know Robert Culp was supposed to play McGee? But he wanted too much moolah, I believe and they went with Taylor. Great choice.
Summer is definitely the best time to reread the McGees!
*can of beer from the bottom, I meant. Doing that to a bottle would have been a bit messy;-) lol
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