Grofield: Lemons Never Lie

Lemons Never Lie by Richard Stark (AKA Donald Westlake)

Grofield put a nickel in the slot machine, pulled the lever, and watched a lemon, a lemon, and a lemon come up. The machine coughed fourteen nickels into the chrome tray. Grofield frowned at them; what the hell do you do with fourteen nickels? Besides bag your suit.

The first three Alan Grofield adventures (The Damsel, The Dame, and The Blackbird) seemed to take place in a universe entirely separate from Parker’s, save for the character’s name and the references to the Parker novels. As I wrote about The Damsel, “the Violent World of Parker doesn’t seem so grim anymore.” That continued with the next two in the series.

With Lemons Never Lie, the light that had crept into the Parker universe is extinguished with a bang, several more bangs, and quite a few stabs. Grofield and his fellow pro Dan Leach walk out of a job-planning meeting in Las Vegas because the proposal is insane and the proposer, Andrew Myers, may well be. Attempting to make the best of things, Leach hits the tables and does quite well for himself. Unfortunately, Myers notices and rips off Leach, which sets into motion a chain of events that gets bloodier and bloodier and bloodier.

Stark makes a couple of interesting creative choices in Lemons Never Lie. The first is that Grofield is a much more serious person. This makes sense as the novel progressively gets darker, but even at the beginning, the smart-assery and wisecracks that were Grofield’s stock in trade are gone.

The second is that much of the action takes place off-camera, somewhat like the bank heist in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. Some may be disappointed that a couple of possible set pieces don’t unfold in front of the reader, but I found the technique to be quite effective.

Lemons Never Lie is a first-rate Richard Stark novel. It’s a shame that, after finally writing a Grofield solo adventure that all of his readers would enjoy, Stark never wrote another. Maybe he decided that he could never do better than this. If so, he was probably right. Alan Grofield goes out on top.

Known printings and cover gallery here

To The Blackbird, the previous book in the Alan Grofield series.

To Slayground, the Parker novel that precedes Lemons Never Lie chronologically

To Plunder Squad, the Parker novel that follows Lemons Never Lie chronologically