Slayground in 100 Must-Read Books for Men

100 Must-Read Books for Men

Stephen E. Andrews writes to note that he has included Slayground in his new book, 100 Must-Read Books for Men.

100 Must Read Books For Men was published in the United Kingdom on 16th September 2008 and in the USA on 1st February 2009). It was conceived in April 2005 and commissioned by my editor, Jenny Ridout, at A & C Black (my publishers, who are the reference division of Bloomsbury, the largest independent publisher in the UK, who are most celebrated for discovering and publishing J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame) in Spring 2007. The book didn’t happen earlier because I was busy working on a book entitled 100 Must Read Science Fiction Novels, which came out in 2006 (2007 in the States)…

The book covers fiction and non-fiction and aims to recommend 100 great books that men of all ages should enjoy – my co-author (Duncan Bowis) and I set out to select books that covered what we thought of as all the perennial themes of masculinity. Parker has been one of my literary heroes for over 20 years, so it was a no-brainer that I’d include a Richard Stark title in the book alongside other crime fiction by Edward Bunker, James M. Cain, Ted Lewis (the closest UK equivalent to Stark via his Jack Carter novels), James Lee Burke and others.

I selected Slayground above the other Parker titles as it is one of my favourite crime novels and for me, a perfect illustration of Parker’s ethos as the ultimate, efficient survivor. Stark is still little-known in the UK, but I’ve been gradually converting friends to his work for the last few decades with positive results. Aside from my work as a writer, I have spent most of my ‘day job’ hours over the past twenty-five years working in bookshops, so I’ve always been at pains to sell Stark’s work, despite the fact that the only one of his books which is consistently available over here is The Hunter, usually under the Point Blank title. Like yourself, I’m a bit of a Parker expert, seeking out the (mostly awful) films and other works by Westlake, including the Tucker Coe and Curt Clark novels too.

Here are some quotations from my description of Slayground (Please note that these are reproduced here with the permission of my publisher):

Slayground is possibly the greatest piece of sustained action writing ever committed to print. In prose as clear as a recently squeegeed windowpane, Stark lives up to his name as he thrillingly allows the reader to watch fiction’s ultimate antihero endure the tightest of corners in his characteristically workmanlike style.

‘Preaching the gospel that the coolly efficient are most likely to succeed, Richard Stark’s twenty-three Parker novels are the beatitudes for existentialists. Although the character’s debut (in The Hunter aka Point Blank) presented him with a conventional motivation, the unique drive of the series soon establishes itself as Parker’s sole spur is revealed as cold, hard cash and nothing more. Truly amoral, Parker simply does what is necessary, killing only when the situation demands it.’

I’m confident that readers who enjoy Stark would like many of the other books I recommend in 100 Must Read Books For Men, so watch out for it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to letting Westlake himself know he’d made the magic 100 before he died –something I’ll always regret.

The book looks like a lot of fun–I’ll need to check it out. Thanks to Stephen for the heads-up.

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