It was a real treat. I've been reading the Richard Stark Parker novels because of a recommendation from Carl. Richard Stark was a pen name for Donald Westlake, and got through the first three, so was completely unspoiled for the movie, which was based on the fourth book Flashfire. The movie-Parker is softer and more sympathetic than the book one, but I can see why that was so. Smart adapters. The early Stark novels went out of print pretty quickly, but the later ones, after Parker's 1990 Comeback were much more popular.
Westlake's style in his other books is very different than Stark's style for Parker, and it gives me a model on how that can be done. I love learning from the masters, and I have to say Westlake was a true master of the compelling story.
I've always loved Parker. It isn't just the level of the violence, but that whole feeling of what it's like to be truly criminal, with very definite boundaries on the amount of damage that can be done to regular people because of the consequences. None of which apply to the other criminals of Parker's world. Parker's very straightforward ethics always bring me back to his stories too. The fact that he keeps faith as best he can, that the money isn't as important as being in charge of his own life, and that he always does what he says he's going to do, even when people say he's insane.
It touches a pretty deep nerve for me, and one that I really want to follow up on with a story and character of my own, with both that capacity for violence and the ability to go into something that should kill her for her principles.
It helped that I was able to listen to an interview with NPR of Frank Calabrese Jr. about his testifying against his father in order to put his father away on organized crime charges. I liked how Frank's uncle tried to keep him out of it and how both the father and uncle kept the kids away from the Outfit back then. The other thing that I really loved was that Frank Jr. decided to not go into protective custody. He said that he wasn't a rat, because rats testify and then hide, and Frank wasn't going to hide. He wanted his father go to after him, not the rest of the family or anyone else, because Frank Jr. was the one that was responsible for putting his father away for as long as he could.
That seeming contradiction, of a criminal who also has deep, abiding principles really appeals to me, why it might be there and what might come of it. A choice between good and evil is no real choice, or so said Robert McKee, because everyone choose what they believe is good. The really interesting choices are between to necessary evils or two irreconcilable goods, and I think that the setup of the 'bad guy' with a desire to do the right thing by herself and her people can make for wonderful stories.