The Violent World of Parker’s third anniversary!

Strap yourselves in and get ready to skim. This is going to be a long one.

About the Site

I think of the relaunched Violent World of Parker as having been born on New Year’s Day, 2009, the day after Donald Westlake died. But the half-formed results of the relaunch weren’t made public until February 1 of that year, so today will be just fine. Next year, maybe I’ll hit the target.

This site started around 13 years ago (!) as “The Parker Page,” which was just that–one page, hosted at the now-defunct Geocities. It listed the novels in order, and the movies based on them, with a couple of pictures.

Why bother with that? Well, at the time I had to do research, including a trip or two to the University of Texas library, to get that much information, and, once I dug it up, I didn’t want others to have to work so hard. Also, I wanted to experiment with this newfangled Internet thing. So I used my rudimentary HTML knowledge and posted my research online.

The result was astonishing. A constant stream of e-mails began pouring in from Parker fans around the world, telling me bits of trivia I had not known, offering to send me hard-to-find books, hooking me up with bootlegs of Made in U.S.A. and The Split, mailing me unproduced screenplays. There was a hunger out there, and by posting one lame page on the Internet, it became my job to feed it.

I gradually expanded the site, but it really wasn’t much more than cover galleries and hastily-written thoughts on the books and some of the movies until Westlake died. I had been planning on a major revamp before then, but it took his death to finally make me get to work.

What’s Going Ahn?

It’s a sad fact that it often takes death for an artist to be truly appreciated, and that most definitely seems to be the case with Westlake. While part of the impetus in properly revamping the site was a small attempt to prevent Donald Westlake and his works from fading into the ether, it turns out that that wouldn’t have been a problem. If anything, his reputation and popularity have only grown since December 31, 2008.

I see three primary factors in this growth:

  1. His death, of course. When folks were buzzing online or talking with their friends about his passing, those same people were dusting off a Westlake book and their friends were made curious and may have picked up a book or two themselves. When those people opened those books, they thought, “Damn! Good book!”

    There’s some sort of crazy Michael Jackson extravaganza laser-disco-circus show happening at our local basketball arena in a few weeks. This would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Sad to say, but death helps.

  2. Hard Case Crime and the University of Chicago Press. Hard Case Crime put some great Westlake titles into the hands of readers who fell in love with this terrific imprint. One of those was Lemons Never Lie, which a fellow who works for the University of Chicago Press liked a lot and decided to find out a little more about. The result? The Parker novels are back in print, and you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to acquire Butcher’s Moon anymore.
  3. Darwyn Cooke’s comic books. His Parker project was in the works before Westlake’s death, but The Hunter was finished and published afterward. I think it won every award a comic book can get, and it deserved those. I can’t tell you how many folks have written me or commented on the site saying, “I came to Richard Stark after picking up Darwyn Cooke’s comic adaptation.” This attracted a whole legion of readers who otherwise may never have been exposed.

This Year in Westlake

All that continues apace in 2012. Hard Case Crime will be publishing a lost Westlake manuscript, The Comedy is Finished, in about a month. U of C will be reprinting the Grofield novels in April. Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of The Score follows in May. When relaunching, I wondered if I would run out of material at some point. That fear appears to be groundless.

I acquired and fell in love with my Kindle this year, and millions of other readers have also fallen in love with e-readers. While plenty of you reading this no doubt prefer a dusty paperback (or, if you’re esteemed co-blogger Nick, a first UK edition inscribed hardcover), many of those print editions had gotten hard and expensive to find. Fortunately, Westlake’s longtime friend and sometimes publisher Otto Penzler has recently released a batch of Westlake’s books for e-readers as part of his revival of Mysterious Press, with more to come I’m certain. One of those titles is the frustratingly hard-to-find Dortmunder novel (sort-of featuring Parker), Jimmy the Kid. Know where my old copy is? The library. Now I have my own copy in my precious, precious Kindle.

Our friends at Blackbird Books have also released a couple of rarities for e-readers, as has another company or two. We’ll see more of this, and that’s a Very Good Thing. If you don’t believe me, just ask young buck Lawrence Block, who has put about a jillion of his out-of-print titles back in circulation digitally (including three sleaze titles co-written with Westlake) and has acquired plenty of my dollars as a result. Now who wants to create a digital edition of Comfort Station?

Max Allan Collins’ Nolan series of Parker pastiches is also coming back into print this year, date not yet set. Great news for Parker lovers. When do we get Garry Disher’s Wyatt series?

Did I mention there’s also a Parker movie coming? You knew that already. Much more, I’m sure, as the October release date approaches.

Let’s Talk More About the Site

A bit overwhelmed by life at that moment (something that is certain to happen again, life being life and all) and not feeling like I was doing a good job for readers, I invited Nick Jones of Existential Ennui in as co-blogger so that the stream of new material wouldn’t cut off for a month or two at a time, which had happened too often. Happily, he accepted. Good thing I’m not the jealous type, because he’s been outshining me ever since. His work has been and is greatly appreciated by our readers and by me.

With all of the above going on, plus some goodies we haven’t mentioned or even conceived of yet, this is likely to be the busiest year in this site’s history. I hope it will also be the most fun. And if we drop off for awhile? Well, you always seem to come back, something I don’t take for granted and that I am extraordinarily grateful for. So thank you, dear reader. It’s fun for us, but it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without all of you.

A Call to Arms

I loved the Parker books from the first, but deciding to start a site about them was as much an accident of timing as anything else. In a different time or place, I may have started an 87th Precinct site, or a Lawrence Block site, or something else entirely, or no site at all.

I’d love to do sites devoted to 87th Precinct, Lawrence Block, and many other things, but I’m busy with this one. But if you have a love that you don’t believe is properly represented, archived, and celebrated on the Internet, let me encourage you to do so. It’s a lot of work, sometimes even a chore, but it’s also a whole lot of fun and extraordinarily rewarding.

Keep the flame burning, for whatever artist you love.