The Outfit (1963)


When the woman screamed, Parker awoke and rolled off the bed.  He heard the plop of a silencer behind him as he rolled, and the bullet punched the pillow where his head had been.

A hit attempt on Parker while he is in flagranti delicto means that it’s time to settle his beef with the Outfit once and for all. His plan is twofold. First, tell his associates that have previously respected the boundaries between freelancers and organized criminals that the truce is off–they are now free to hit the many Outfit targets that they know from their day-to-day work are easy targets run by an organization that’s growing soft. Second, Parker is going after Bronson, the head of the Outfit, in person.

The plot of The Outfit is as simple as that. It’s the execution that makes The Outfit a long-time favorite of readers. Parker is his usual, unstoppable, hunting self, of course, but a great deal of excitement is added to the novel when Parker’s associates start hitting Outfit targets. At this point, the novel almost turns into an anthology of short, free-standing heist stories, all of them great (my favorite is Part 2, Chapter 4). Then Stark brings it all back home for a satisfying conclusion that wraps up part of the Parker saga while leaving some unfinished business for the next book–Elizabeth (“Bett”) Ruth Harrow Conway, one of Parker’s women of convenience, finds out about Charles Willis cover and makes off with a gun with his fingerprints on it.

The Outfit is great stuff. It’s no wonder it’s been adapted as both a movie and a comic book.