Friday, February 3, 2012
The Sour Lemon Score - Under the Microscope
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I'd been hearing about Richard Stark among crime afficionados for a while. It seemed like, among people in the know, that Richard Stark was thought of as maybe the best crime writer on the continent
Richard Stark, though, is just a pseudonym. The writer's actual name is Donald E. Westlake, a prolific writer in the genre best known for his humorous caper novels and for writing the screenplay for The Grifters. But he's a writer with many pseudonyms, and he's used those pseudonyms to allow him to explore different styles (and genres). And "Richard Stark," as the pseudonym might suggest, does not write humorous caper novels: he writes stark and hard crime novels. Short, sharp, and brutal is more the order, though there is always a dark humor to "Stark's" writing. If you want a bit of a feel for his work, Mel Gibson's Payback was a remake of a movie that was based on a Stark novel of the same name.
The Sour Lemon Score is crisply written, tight, and sharp, and yet somehow full of life - the dialogue, in particular, is full of character (and characters). The protagonist Parker, is an efficient and unrepentant criminal; not evil or cruel, but generally aware of his own self-interest and accepting of what that entails. Which makes him better than many of the other criminals haunting the societal underbelly, but not a man to cross. And in the Sour Lemon Score, one of the men on a score does just that. Which, needless to say, does not make Parker happy. What ensues is a game of cat and mouse - between two cats. And the mouse? A large pile of money. Money that Parker feels is his.