Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wyatt and Parker, Part II

My comments about Garry Disher and Richard Stark (Donald E. Westlake) a few months ago drew some pointed responses from readers puzzled or angry about Disher's use of Stark's Parker character as a model for his own Wyatt.

I've just finished Disher's second Wyatt novel, Paydirt, and, as the novel ends, Wyatt, troubled by a hitman from the mob, called here "The Outfit," vows to take his quarrel to the Outfit personally. Those angry November readers may be unhappy to learn that Stark had written a Parker novel called The Outfit, in which, well, you can guess.

If I were Australian, I might be more sensitive to allegations that Disher was engaging in "cultural cringing" by using an American model. (Of course, I'm not American, either, as readers of this blog might assume.) Instead, I urge everyone to read some Wyatt novels, then a few of the earlier Parkers. Then they should read Disher's clever and funny short story "My Brother Jack," available in The Oxford Book of Detective Stories. In addition to providing some of the best crime writing from any country, this should convince readers that Wyatt is no mere copy of Parker. And "My Brother Jack" should make any reader believe that Disher may have been at once paying homage to a great crime writer and setting himself the challenge of sticking fairly closely to a model while at the same time creating a character of noticeably different temperament.

I have never seen Disher discuss the Wyatt-Parker question. Do any readers know of such a discussion? Better still, if Garry Disher ever reads this, I'd love to hear what he has to say.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

Technorati tags:

Labels: , , ,

10 Comments:

Blogger Perry Middlemiss said...

Lee Goldberg (http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/) is a big Disher and Westlake fan. It would be interesting to hear if he had any thoughts on this.

Disher has just published a new Challis novel, and, from a talk he gave last year, should be finished with another Wyatt instalment either this year or early next. If he tours to promote that book I'll ask him about the connection. Just have to start reading the Parker books now.

March 01, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I've posted on Lee's blog before. Maybe I'll put the question to him.

I wonder if Garry Disher might tour in the U.S. or the U.K. Soho has published some of the Hal Challis novels, and Bitter Lemon is publishing what I believe is the latest.

Here's a list of the Parker novels: http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Nook/5171/ The parallels with Wyatt are stronger in the books before Richard Stark revived Parker in 1998, though the post-comeback books show a signs of Wyatt influence in their titles.

And be sure to post a comment if you get Garry Disher to weigh in.

March 01, 2007  
Blogger Perry Middlemiss said...

I wonder if Stark has read the Wyatt novels. Might be a mutual appreciation society at work here.

Disher hardly ever seems to tour. He mentioned last year that he had done an author tour of Germany and was scheduled to be in the UK in early 2008, and that's about it. His local publisher is Text Publishing who are aligned with Canongate in the UK. It's possible to read a lot into the timing of Disher's UK visit and when the latest Challis or Wyatt novels might appear there.

I'll keep an eye out for any author appearances in Melbourne.

March 04, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Maybe I'll have to pin down Stark/Westlake on this end, then.

I'd say there's an excellent chance the two authors have a mutual admiration society. The Disher debts to Stark are obvious, and the similarities of the post-comeback Parker titles to the Wyatt titles are too tantalizing not to consider.

It would be nice to think that two authors whose work I like could share such a sense of fun.

March 04, 2007  
Blogger Damien said...

One thing is for certain, Donald Westlake certainly has that special sense of fun. Just consider the innovative cross-pollination between his Dormunder book Drowned Hopes and Joe Gores' 32 Cadillacs. It takes more than your average bloke to take an entire chapter and put it in someone else's novel and vice-versa.

March 05, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

That's wonderful, isn't it? I've read that Gores and Westlake pulled off an exchange like that in another pair of books as well. Stark/Westlake's Slayground also shares an opening chapter with one of his own Alan Grofield novels (I forget which one.)

March 05, 2007  
Anonymous Warren said...

I've read all the Parker novels and just started on the Wyatts. The parallels (I hesitate to call them ripoffs)are so blatant they are distracting me from the story. Parker is emotionless, so is Wyatt. Parker is big, tall and square. So if Wyatt. Parker never has sex during a job but catches up on it afterwards. So does Wyatt. Parker doesn't know how to do small talk; he has a cold patience and concentration on the job. So does Wyatt. The Parker series starts out with Parker going up against the Outfit. So does the Wyatt series. (Yes, it's called the Outfit in Australia too.) Parker has a phone code with his contacts: one ring, hang up; another ring, hang up. A third ring, Parker answers. Disher uses this EXACT code in the first Wyatt novel. It goes on and on. It really goes beyond modelling Wyatt on Parker. It's more like a cloning, and transplanting the clone Down Under.
It may be that Wyatt will develope beyond his Parker genotype, so I don't want to condemn Disher prematurely, but it really would be interesting to hear what he has to say on this subject. The Parker character does not develop nor age. He has no history or future. He is the perfect existential criminal, living only in the moment, pure noir. Maybe Wyatt will have more depth, I don't know yet.
Disher is not plagiarizing Westlake--I mean, it's not like the daVinci Code, exactly--but I'm surprised Westlake hasn't said something about it. Maybe he's cool with it.

May 10, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for the note, Warren. The Wyatt genotype has gone through enough tiny mutations to make the Disher books interesting.

Wyatt is not quite as emotionally detached as Parker, for instance. In one novel, Wyatt robs a house so he can give the proceeds of a heist to a former colleague for whose injuries he feels responsible. The injuries cause the man to lose control of his body occasionally, and when he soils himself during a meeting, Disher shows us Wyatt's discomfort. All this is very un-Parkerlike. Wyatt also displays flashes of humor that Parker never would, and, while I'm not sure he ever has sex with a woman before a job, he does struggle with himself about such matters in a way Parker never would.

After reading all the Parkers, two of the Wyatts and, especially, Disher's story "My Brother Jack", I am convinced that the Wyatt novels are a kind of amusing literary exercise on Disher's part as well as a tribute to Westlake and Parker. I also think that the similarities of Westlake's post-comeback Parker titles to Disher's Wyatt titles are too close to be coincidence, so the borrowing may go both ways.

May 11, 2007  
Anonymous Warren Criswell said...

Yes, after reading a little more Wyatt I agree with you, Peter. Wyatt is not the force of nature that Parker is. There was one reference to Wyatt's childhood, where he grew up, whereas Parker's youth is never mentioned. He seems to have sprung full blown from the brow of Westlake. Wyatt is much more emotional than Parker, and more easily distracted by women than Parker. Wyatt is also not quite as invincible as Parker, more human. The way Wyatt lectures to his string, like a CEO at a board meeting, is kind of annoying. Parker never talks like that.
I had decided that the Wyatt books are like a remake of a movie in another country. You know, like the US version of the French "Breathless." Now I'm thinking of Wyatt as an actor trying to play Parker and not quite getting it.

Having said all that, I will say that Disher keeps me turning the pages, and after finishing Paydirt and I HAD to find Death Deal!

May 23, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

What can one say about Wyatt and Parker? Maybe that they're two professionals who happen to share the same job. And yes, the reference to the "hero's" childhood is something one would never see in a Parker novel.

Maybe Wyatt is Parker's kindlier younger brother who worships his older sibling and goes into his line of work.

I would love to sit down with Westlake and Disher and discuss this matter with them.

May 23, 2007  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home