Richard Stark is hot hot hot! In his latest novel, Firebreak, antihero Parker Willis is back settling old scores and trying to pull off an art heist at a dot-com billionaire’s mountain fortress. There are so many thrills, near-misses, and plot twists that I must warn you that this is not a novel for those with weak hearts. Imagine free-falling 30,000 feet and landing unscathed. That’s what it’s like reading Firebreak.
As I read through each chapter, I kept thinking, “has Hollywood called this guy yet?” The answer is yes. Hollywood turned his first novel, The Hunter, into the movie
"Point Blank" and remade it recently as "Payback" with Mel Gibson. Now you have an idea of what Stark’s fast paced storytelling is like. I really enjoyed Parker and his “Joe Average” partners in crime. I was reminded of Lawrence Block’s Hitman books and no wonder
-- Stark, it turns out, is good friends with Block. You probably know Stark by his other name, Donald E. Westlake. Does it get any better than this? I hope not. I don’t think my heart could take another pounding like that.
Oh yes, the plot. Page one, sentence one: “When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man.” So you see it’s your typical, run of the mill art heist, with a Russian hitman, a dot-com white collar crime, a few murders, revenge, crooked lawyers, senior citizen assassins, high tech gadgetry, fraud and by the way, someone’s trying to kill Parker.
Did I mention there’s a Mob connection too? This novel makes you think, it keeps you on the edge of your seat (or up at night, as in my case). I’ll never be able to thumb through a copy of Architectural Digest without thinking of it as a thief’s instruction manual for breaking and entering into the homes of the rich and famous. Note to self: when you hit it big, no home photos! All this in a compact 297 pages. That’s talent.
Do you like fast-paced action, excellent characters and a well-plotted intelligent story? If so, pick up a copy of Firebreak. I’m off to pick up copies of Comeback and Backflash, Stark’s previous Parker novels. Parker is one character I want to keep tabs on. I give Firebreak four stars out of five. Why not five out of five? Larry Lloyd drove me nuts. Read it and see what I mean.