Westlake Score: The Score by Richard Stark (Pocket Books)

NB: A version of this post also appears on Existential Ennui.

Let’s return to the books I bought at the recent London Paperback & Pulp Bookfair, the majority of which were decidedly Donald E. Westlake-shaped—the above one being a case in point. It’s a US first edition/first printing of The Score, Westlake’s fifth Parker novel, published in paperback by Pocket Books in July of 1964. For American collectors this will be an unremarkable item: AbeBooks, for example, lists over thirty copies of this edition from US sellers. But it’s rare to come across a copy here in the UK; in the three years I’ve been collecting Westlake and Parker, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Pocket printing pop up on eBay, and I’ve certainly never seen one in a bookshop or at a book fair, even previous London Paperback & Pulp ones. I acquired this copy from one of the dealers at the fair, David Hyman (whose blog can be found here), for a fiver—a very good price which, I feel, helps to abrogate the fact that I already own the novel in four other editions: an Allison & Busby hardback and Coronet, Berkley, and Avon paperbacks.

The cover artist is, of course, Harry Bennett, who illustrated the covers of all eight of the Parkers published by Pocket, from The Hunter (1962) to The Handle (1966). I waxed lyrical about Harry’s artwork two years ago; that post also boasts comments from Harry’s son, Tom, and daughter, Deborah, so it’s well worth reading if you haven’t already. Much as I admire Harry’s work, however, of all his Parker covers, I think The Score is perhaps the one I was least taken with, at least when I wrote that post. The crew in the cab of the truck—Grofield, Mary, Salsa, and Wycza, making their escape from the decimated Copper Canyon—looked too comedic to me, like they belonged in a Dortmunder story rather than a Parker tale. But viewed in the flesh—or, perhaps more accurately, in the pulp—the cover comes into its own. Bennett imbues each face with real character, and I love the little sgraffito touches around the painting—above the truck’s numberplate and on the headlamps, and down its right edge.

So, that leaves two remaining Westlake Scores from my London Paperback & Pulp Bookfair haul: one softcover, and one very special hardcover…