Westlake Score: The Green Eagle Score

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

Over on Existential Ennui, I’ve recently begun a run of posts on paperbacks; should you be interested, over the coming weeks I’ll be showcasing and reviewing softcovers by the likes of Patricia Highsmith, Richard Matheson, and Elmore Leonard; published by such iconic imprints as Pan, Corgi, and Gold Medal; and featuring spectacular cover illustrations by the likes of Sam Peffer, Harry Bennett . . . and the man responsible for the cover art of this latest Westlake Score: Robert McGinnis, here painting to my mind one of his best visualizations of Parker. Published straight to paperback in the US in 1967, The Green Eagle Score was the tenth novel to star Parker, but only the second to be published by Fawcett/Gold Medal (second new one, anyway; Gold Medal also reissued the first Parker outing, The Hunter, in 1967, as Point Blank); the eight novels prior to the preceding Parker, The Rare Coin Score, were all issued by Pocket Books.

I’m not sure how many “Top Five Parkers” lists The Green Eagle Score would feature in, but it’s a solid Top Ten, I think, at least once you get your eye in as regards the greater series. In his brilliant book-by-book overview of the Westlake canon, Ethan Iverson memorably recalls how The Green Eagle Score was the first Parker he read, and how he “could not understand how dry as dust, simple, and matter of fact it was.” By this point in the series, Westlake/Stark’s prose is so stripped back, so deadpan and impassive it’s almost zen-like in its doggedness: just the facts, ma’am. And yet this is deceptive; the novel’s opening paragraph—also quoted in Trent’s precis—is a perfect example of the Stark less-is-more approach, of how much Westlake crams in with so few words:

Parker looked in at the beach and there was a guy in a black suit standing there, surrounded by all the bodies in bathing suits. He was standing near Parker’s gear, not facing anywhere in particular, and he looked like a rip in the picture. The hotel loomed up behind him, white and windowed, the Puerto Rican sun beat down, the sea foamed white on the beach, and he stood there like a homesick mortician.

I shared some other thoughts about the book back in 2010, so I shan’t go over old ground again here, except to note that I like The Green Eagle Score enough that spotting and then winning this copy of the Gold Medal first edition on eBay was an unexpected thrill. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s unusual to see US paperback firsts of the Parkers on this side of the pond, and nabbing them gives me the opportunity to hold little pieces of publishing history in my hands; to discover things about them—for example, the opening page of The Green Eagle Score:

Which affords a glimpse into Fawcett’s marketing strategy for the book, positioning master thief Parker alongside other characters in the Gold Medal stable: two spies—Philip Atlee’s Joe Gall and Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm—and a salvage consultant. Matt Helm I’ve blogged about on Existential Ennui before, but it just so happens that Messrs Gall and McGee—the latter created, of course, by John D. MacDonald—will be appearing later in my EE series of paperback posts. Stay tuned.