This book introduces Parker, a criminal whose combination of street smarts and brute force has enabled him to live comfortably on the proceeds from his thefts. But his life is fundamentally disrupted when a job goes awry and one of his partners double-crosses him. Now Parker is consumed with thoughts of revenge, and he’ll do anything to catch up with Mal Resnick, the man who stole both his money and his wife. Parker uses a variety of tactics, including intimidation and murder, to track Mal down; meanwhile, Mal learns that Parker is on his trail and tries desperately to escape his clutches. Parker’s task is made more complicated by the fact that Mal is a memeber of an extremely influential crime syndicate called the Outfit, and the Outfit isn’t inclined to let Parker have his way. In order to exact his revenge, Parker must eventually go up against the whole organization; but will killing Mal sign his own death warrant?
While I enjoy the occasional film noir or con movie, I don’t tend to like the noir genre in book form. I tend to prefer my mysteries a little less violent, with a more clearly defined moral code (i.e., the killer is the bad guy). This book has a very cynical tone and a protagonist with few, if any, redeeming qualities. Frankly, I found Parker horrifying, especially in his violent treatment of women and his casual approach to killing anyone who gets in his way. Yet I actually ended up enjoying this book! I liked the writing style, which doesn’t waste any words and gets straight to the point. I also really enjoyed watching the story unfold: the book alternates from Parker’s story in the present to the story of the job that went wrong. Additionally, it was fascinating to see how Parker’s situation changes throughout the novel, as his quest for vengeance against one man turns into a war against the entire Outfit. If I’m ever in the mood for a darker mystery, I may even continue with this series!
There are also two film adaptations of the book, “Point Blank” (1967, starring Lee Marvin) and “Payback” (1999, starring Mel Gibson). I haven’t seen either of them, but I think this story would translate really well to film! Has anyone seen either of these movies, and if so, would you recommend them?
3 thoughts on “Review: The Hunter”
Point Blank is a great movie in its own right, but it isn’t that much like the book–for one thing, the protagonist doesn’t actually kill anybody, and some people think that’s because he’s really a ghost. That different. But beautifully filmed.
Payback is much more faithful to the book (though still very different), and not nearly as good a movie, but quite entertaining all the same–there are two versions out there, the director’s cut and the theatrical version that Mel Gibson had done because he thought (probably correctly) that the director’s cut would flop. Nobody’s ever done this story straight, unless you count Darwyn Cooke’s graphic novel. You can easily imagine why that is.
If you go on with the series, you’ll find that Parker is never quite as ruthless as he is here, though still not somebody you ever want to cross. Westlake didn’t originally intend Parker to be a series character–in the original version, he’s gunned down by the law, the way you’d expect. An editor at Pocket books suggested changing the ending so that he gets away, so there could be a lot of books about him. Westlake happily accepted the offer (said he never felt right about killing Parker off), and went on writing Parker novels, on and off, for the rest of his life. Btw, the editor in question was a lifelong advocate of pacifism. You can’t make this stuff up.
Thanks for the info on the movies! “Point Blank” sounds like the more interesting interpretation, in my opinion, but perhaps I’ll try them both. I didn’t know that the original plan was for Parker to be gunned down…that would have been a good ending, I think, although it obviously renders the sequels impossible. It’s good to know that if I go on with the series, I won’t find Parker quite so odious!