The Handle (1966)

The Handle by Richard Stark (AKA Donald Westlake)When the engine stopped, Parker came up on deck for a look around. The mainland was nearly out of sight now, just a gray smudge on the horizon between the dark blue of the water and lighter blue of the sky.

The Handle marks a return to territory previously covered in The Score–a hugely ambitious heist that degenerates into an orgy of violence and destruction. Like The Score, The Handle would make a pretty neat movie. Parker is contacted by Karns, the current head of the Outfit, to knock off an island casino that he feels is unfairly competing with his organization.

While The Handle, like all Parker books, is pretty good, it stands as a lesser entry in the series. People get shot and survive too often, and some good characters are introduced (Yancy and Crystal) who vanish completely too early into the action. Coincidence is more of a factor than it needs to be. Nevertheless, a fun book with Parker in fine form.

The Handle is also notable as being the first book where Parker breaks his no-sex-while-on-a-job rule. It also marks the second time Parker works with Alan Grofield in the series. Alan’s first solo adventure, The Damsel, immediately follows the events of this novel.

Known printings and cover gallery here.

To The Seventh, the previous book in the Parker series

To the Alan Grofield novel The Damsel, which follows this book chronologically

To The Rare Coin Score, the next book in the Parker series