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Nobody Runs Forever

Richard Stark (Donald Westlake)

Mysterious Press/Warner Books

US Hardcover First

ISBN: 0-89296-798-6

295 Pages; $23.95

Publication Date: November, 2004

Date Reviewed: December 7, 2004

Reviewed by: Terry D'Auray © 2004



Mystery (Stark), Mystery (Westlake)

When mystery Grand Master Donald Westlake writes as Richard Stark, his stories take a definite noirish turn to focus on criminal protagonist Parker, a shrewd, tough antihero who lives perpetually on the wrong side of the law. Parker has appeared in multiple previous novels, all written with dark flair and plotted with twists, turns and crooked dealings galore. Stark writes consistently entertaining heist novels that are quick to read and that surprise till the end. 'Nobody Runs Forever' is no exception.

'Nobody Runs Forever' opens with a poker game. Parker's there, along with a bunch of other guys, each a criminal, each wary of the other, each very, very careful to mask his identity and remain shadowy. But the poker's a ruse; the get-together is to plan a robbery. When Parker discovers that one of the players is wearing a wire, they put the robbery deal on ice; the same happens to the unfortunate turncoat. Desperate for an infusion of cash to augment his dwindling stash, Parker teams with a couple of the more reliable poker buddies for Plan B, to rob a bank in rural Massachusetts. Based on insider information from the bank owner's emotionally unstable wife, relayed through her ex-con lover, the job looks pretty hinky from the outset.

Stark combines meaty caper details with succinct and revealing characterization to make this novel zippy, exciting and substantive. The research, scouting, contingency planning and preparation required to pull off the job and avoid capture are detailed in the best Mission Impossible style. Unexpected snafus, of course, make any well-planned heist more risky, and Stark throws in several - the bounty hunter and his girlfriend, the smart and beautiful local cop, the ex-con's sister. Mixed with the dicey insiders, the whole event starts to resemble a leaky dike with too few fingers to plug the holes. As zero hour approaches, Stark quickens the pace, with short jump-cuts from player to player, grab to get-away, cop to criminal. And, as expected, things don't go as expected.

While Parker's clearly tough and savvy, not at all reluctant to pull his gun or to use it, there's very little strong violence in this book. Parker's more thoughtful than savage, more prone to the inventive quick-thinking solution than the deadly one. Which, of course, is why he has succeeded in his chosen profession and why he's been around for so many books.

'Nobody Runs Forever' is full of a bunch of snarky people, each with the naïve hope that their cut of the booty will allow them to change the miserable lives they've been unable to change otherwise. It's the classic short-cut to salvation, and it rarely works. Stark can illustrate the desperation in these lives with but a few aptly descriptive words in prose that is straight-forward, realistic and smoothly readable. With plotting that is tight and tense and pacing that compels page-turning, 'Nobody Runs Forever' is a terrific addition to the Parker series, and yet another in Stark's long, long list of hits.