Finally: The Handle/Hammett challenge winner announced

I know this is way late, but I just got off the road–I thought I’d have time to post from the road, but that didn’t work out.

So, for those of you just tuning in, or who have forgotten because this took so darned long, this was the challenge that novelist and Parker fan Wallace Stroby presented to us:

Donald E. Westlake’s eighth “Richard Stark” novel, The Handle, contains a major – and direct – allusion to the work of crime fiction great Dashiell Hammett. What is it, and to which work does it allude?

And here is the answer:

On page 42 of the University of Chicago edition of The Handle, Parker is having a conversation with mob boss Walter Karns, who’s encouraging him to rob an island casino called “Cockaigne,” run by an independent operator named Wolfgang Baron 40 miles off the U.S. coast in the Gulf of Mexico.

Here’s the exchange:

Parker said, “So you want me to take his money away.”

“Right. I want you to pluck him like a chicken, scrape him clean. Don’t just rob the place, burn it to the ground, rip it right off that God damn island and throw it in the sea. Gut it, like Couffignal. Or don’t you know that one either?”

Parker didn’t. He said, “What’s in it for me?”

This is a direct reference to Dashiell Hammett’s 1925 Continental Op short story “The Gutting of Couffignal,” included in his collection The Big Knockover, and originally published in Black Mask magazine. In the story, the Op confronts a gang of thieves who invade and rob a tiny exclusive island off the coast of San Francisco that’s home to a community of millionaires.

We had five correct responses. They were from:

  • Jesse A.
  • Craig C.
  • Peter R.
  • aiwacat
  • Mark S.

And the winner is <sound of rustling envelope>:

Aiwacat! The prize is an inscribed copy of the new trade paperback edition of Mr. Stroby’s Gone ’til November. Don’t let some possibility of it being a future collector’s item stop you from reading it, aiwacat.

Thanks to our participants, and thanks to Mr. Stroby for thinking up and donating the prize for this contest.