On the overlap of different series by the same author
Dirty Money is the twenty-fifth in the long-running series of novels about the thorough, amoral thief, Parker, that Westlake writes under the name Richard Stark. The novel is given to bits of grim humor of the kind not found in the earliest Parker books:
"`You kill a lawman,' [Parker] said, `you're in another zone. McWhitney and I are gonna have to work this out.'Earlier incarnations of Parker never would have cracked wise like that. Now would they, upon being told by a bounty hunter that "The last time I saw you, you were driving a phony police car," have replied: "The police car was real. I was the phony. You were there?"
"`But not on the phone.'
"Parker yawned. `Nothing on the phone ever,' he said. `Except pizza.'"
Similarly, Comeback, the 1997 novel that revived Parker after a twenty-five year hiatus, opens with the sort of farcical touch far more characteristic of Westlake's comic caper novels about John Dortmunder than of the pre-hiatus Parkers. The tone is grimmer, but the comic touch is decidedly present.
Elsewhere in the sprawling Westlake/Stark oeuvre, recent novels seem touched by the sombre sympathy for the economically hard-pressed that marked Westlake's novel The Axe. That book's protagonist is a laid-off executive driven to extreme acts by his induced unemployment. In the 2006 Parker novel Ask the Parrot, Stark/Westlake drops the earlier device of having Parker assemble a string of specialists to pull a robbery. Instead, Parker joins forces, against his will at first, with an embittered recluse to rob the racetrack that laid him off unfairly.
The cross-series boundary jumping also marks what might be Westlake's finest work, Walking Around Money, the Dortmunder novella that forms part of the Transgressions series edited by EdMcBain. The goings-on are farcically funny, as they usually are with Dortmunder, but the vignettes of a troubled upstate New York town are touching.
So, what about it, readers? What other crime writers have, if not quite borrowed from themselves, let one corner of their work influence another?
© Peter Rozovsky 2008