Writers are Readers: “The Hunter”

REVIEWER: Steven James Cordin

BOOK TITLE: The Hunter

AUTHOR: Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark

GENERAL SYNOPSIS: The novel begins somewhere in the middle of the story. The main character, Parker, arrives in New York, broke and mad. Through a series of small petty thefts, we learn he is a professional thief who was betrayed by his wife Lynn and a partner, Resnick. Parker locates Lynn and we learn she left him for dead. Parker intends to use his wife to find Resnick, but she overdoses and dies. Parker searches for Resnick. We learn they were involved in a heist to rob arms dealers. Resnick betrayed and killed the other members of the string Parker put together. He convinced Lynn to kill Parker. Parker survives but is picked up for vagrancy. Parker is sentenced to a work farm, eventually kills a guard, and escapes. He travels to New York. Meanwhile, Resnick rejoins the Outfit (the Mob) after he pays a debt to them with the heist money.

Parker tracks down Resnick and demands his money. Resnick explains he gave the money to the Outfit. Parker kills Resnick and decides that the Outfit needs to repay him the money. Parker kills and threatens several Outfit leaders until he convinces the boss, Bronson, to repay him the money from the robbery. Bronson agrees but warns Parker he is a dead man. Parker gets his money, evades an ambush by Bronson, but loses the money when he is chased by police.

The novel ends with Parker leading another string of thieves to rob an Outfit business front. Parker plans to use the money to get plastic surgery

to change his face and resume his life of decadence and crime.

GENERAL IMPRESSIONS: The story was written in 1961, the first in over twenty novels about the career criminal, Parker. The style of writing is a bit outdated but enjoyable. The character is unusual and makes a lasting impression. Parker is not a hero, he is a ruthless thief, a killer when necessary, yet a compelling protagonist. He has been described as “a boulder rolling downhill, unyielding, unstoppable.” Despite his shortcomings as a person, the reader wants him to succeed. The novel in some ways is about work. It describes

in detail how Parker puts together and executes a heist.


I wanted to write a novel about fraud but was not sure how to go about it. I have little interest in writing mysteries or conventional thrillers. Reading The Hunter and other Parker novels has given me inspiration. It has opened a whole new genre for me to write in.

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