Ask the Parrot (Parker Series #23)

Ask the Parrot (Parker Series #23)

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by Richard Stark

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Sometimes mystery master Donald E. Westlake is the author of uproarious crime capers. Sometimes he has a mean streak-and its name is Parker. From his noir classic The Man with the Getaway Face to his recent novel Nobody Runs Forever, whenever Westlake writes as Stark, he lets Parker run loose-a ruthless criminal in a world of vulnerable "straights."
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Sometimes mystery master Donald E. Westlake is the author of uproarious crime capers. Sometimes he has a mean streak-and its name is Parker. From his noir classic The Man with the Getaway Face to his recent novel Nobody Runs Forever, whenever Westlake writes as Stark, he lets Parker run loose-a ruthless criminal in a world of vulnerable "straights."

On a sunny October afternoon a man is running up a hill. He's not dressed for running. Below him are barking police dogs and waiting up ahead is a stranger-with a rifle, a life full of regrets, and a parrot at home who will mutely witness just how much trouble the runner, Parker, can bring into an ordinary life.

The rabbit hunter is Tom Lindahl, a small-town lonely heart nursing a big-time grudge against the racetrack that fired him. He knows from the moment he sees Parker that he's met a professional thief-and a man with murder in his blood. Rescuing Parker from the chase hounds, Lindahl invites the fugitive into his secluded home. He plans to rip off his former employer and exact a deadly measure of revenge-if he can get Parker to help.

But Tom doesn't know Parker and that the desperate criminal will do anything to survive-no matter who has to die...

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Editorial Reviews

James Wolcott
Unconscious in front of the TV is the fate awaiting most in this corner of purgatory, and Parker’s assistance in helping Tom Lindahl escape its confines with a decent stash is the closest he’s come to an act of mercy in his entire bullet-ridden career. As for what happens to the parrot — don’t ask. Our beak is sealed.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
At the start of the highly entertaining new Parker novel from Stark (aka MWA Grand Master Donald Westlake), Parker is on the lam from the botched robbery in Nobody Runs Forever (2004) when he meets up with reclusive Tom Lindahl, who helps him escape a posse of Massachusetts lawmen and their pack of howling dogs. Tom rescues Parker because he has a scheme to rob a local racetrack where he was fired after blowing the whistle on illegal money laundering, and he needs the aid of a professional thief. Parker joins in not only because he knows a good heist when he hears it, but because Tom offers him a way out of a tight situation. As with any Parker novel, things go to hell in bits and pieces as the tight-knit plan unravels, while Parker, ever the cold-blooded professional, deals with the pitiful attempts of amateurs and law enforcement alike to bring him down. Why do readers love this heartless bad guy? Because he's so damn good at what he does. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Picking up where Nobody Runs Forever left off, master criminal Parker escapes from the police and into the hands of an eccentric and angry recluse bent on revenge. Stark (who is Grand Master Donald E. Westlake) lives in upstate New York. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The perils of aiding, abetting and stalking a career criminal. On the lam after a bank heist goes wrong, Parker (Nobody Runs Forever, 2004, etc.) is one sniff ahead of the bloodhounds when Tom Lindahl and his rifle pop up to invite Parker home to his garage-turned-house in the hamlet of Pooley. Tom's been nursing a grudge against his former employer, the Gro-More Racetrack, and thinks Parker's the man to help him rob it. Before they can reconnoiter the property, they must evade the roadblocks set up for Parker by joining the neighborhood posse, to whom Parker introduces himself as Tom's old buddy Ed Smith. Matters heat up when a pair of brothers, Cal and Corey, recognize "Ed" from the APB and Fred Thiemann, paired with Tom and Parker on stakeout, shoots a derelict, assuming he's Parker, who must cover up the murder to protect himself. Next, Tom gets cold feet, George is guilt-racked over killing somebody and Cal and Corey crave the millions they think Parker has stashed from the bank robbery. Several will die before Parker exits the racetrack with a duffel bag stuffed with cash and a tracer on the Infiniti he's taking back to gal-pal Claire in New York. Stark, Donald E. Westlake's more menacing alter ego, flaunts his usual wizardry as unobtrusively as if he were ordering from a fast-food menu. The plot is minimalist, the technique superb.

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Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
Parker Series , #23
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
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File size:
658 KB

Read an Excerpt

Ask the Parrot

By Richard Stark

Mysterious Press

Copyright © 2006

Richard Stark

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-892-96068-X

Chapter One

When the helicopter swept northward and lifted out of sight over the
top of the hill, Parker stepped away from the tree he'd waited
beside and continued his climb. Whatever was on the other side of
this hill had to be better than the dogs baying down there at the
foot of the slope behind him, running around, straining at their
leashes, finding his scent, starting up. He couldn't see the bottom
of the hill any more, the police cars congregated around his former
Dodge rental in the diner parking lot, but he didn't need to. The
excited yelp of the dogs was enough.

How tall was this hill? Parker wasn't dressed for uphill hiking, out
in the midday October air; his street shoes skidded on leaves, his
jacket bunched when he pulled himself up from tree trunk to tree
trunk. But he still had to keep ahead of the dogs and hope to find
something or somewhere useful when he finally started down the other

How much farther to the top? He paused, holding the rough bark of a
tree, and looked up, and fifteen feet above him through the
scattered thin trunks of this second-growth woods there stood a man.
The afternoon sun was to Parker's left, the sky beyond the man a
pale October ash, the man himself only a silhouette. With a rifle.

Not a cop. Not with a group. A man standing, looking downtoward
Parker, hearing the same hounds Parker heard, holding the rifle easy
at a slant across his front, pointed up and to the side. Parker
looked down again, chose the next tree trunk, pulled himself up.

It was another three or four minutes before he drew level with the
man, who stepped back a pace and said, "That's good. Right there's

"I have to keep moving," Parker said, but he stopped, wishing these
shoes gave better traction on dead leaves.

The man said, "You one of those robbers I've been hearing about on
the TV? Took all a bank's money, over in Massachusetts?"

Parker said nothing. If the rifle moved, he would have to meet it.

The man watched him, and for a few seconds they only considered one
another. The man was about fifty, in a red leather hunting jacket
with many pockets, faded blue jeans, and black boots. His eyes were
shielded by a billed red and black flannel cap. Beside him on the
ground was a gray canvas sack, partly full, with brown leather

Seen up close, there was a tension in the man that seemed to be a
part of him, not something caused by running into a fugitive in the
woods. His hands were clenched on the rifle, and his eyes were
bitter, as though something had harmed him at some point and he was
determined not to let it happen again.

Then he shook his head and made a downturned mouth, impatient with
the silence. "The reason I ask," he said, "when I saw you coming up,
and heard the dogs, I thought if you are one of the robbers, I want
to talk to you." He shrugged, a pessimist to his boots, and said,
"If you're not, you can stay here and pat the dogs."

"I don't have it on me," Parker said. Surprised, the man said,
"Well, no, you couldn't. It was about a truckload of cash, wasn't
it?" "Something like that."

The man looked downhill. The dogs couldn't be seen yet, but they
could be heard, increasingly frantic and increasingly excited, held
back by their handlers' lesser agility on the hill. "This could be
your lucky day," he said, "and mine, too." Another sour face. "I
could use one." Stooping to pick up his canvas sack, he said, "I'm
hunting for the pot, that's what I'm doing. I have a car back here."

Parker followed him the short climb to the crest, where the trees
were thinner but within a cluster of them a black Ford SUV was
parked on a barely visible dirt road. "Old logging road," the man
said, and opened the back cargo door of the SUV to put the rifle and
sack inside. "I'd like it if you'd sit up front."


Parker got into the front passenger seat as the man came around the
other side to get behind the wheel. The key was already in the
ignition. He started the car and drove them at an angle down the
wooded north slope, the road usually visible only because it was
free of trees.

Driving, eyes on the dirt lane meandering downslope ahead of them,
the man said, "I'm Tom Lindahl. You should give me something to call

"Ed," Parker decided. "Do you have any weapons on you, Ed?"

"There's police roadblocks all around here." "I know that."

"What I mean is, if you think you can jump me and steal my car, you
wouldn't last more than ten minutes."

Parker said, "Can you get around the roadblocks?" "It's only a few
miles to my place," Lindahl said. "We won't run into anybody. I know
these roads." "Good."

Parker looked past Lindahl's sour face, downslope to the left, and
through the trees now he could just see a road, two-lane blacktop,
below them and running parallel to them. A red pickup truck went by
down there, the opposite way, uphill. Parker said, "Can they see us
from the road, up in here?"

"Doesn't matter." "They'll get to the top in a few minutes, with the
dogs," Parker said. "They'll see this road, they'll figure I'm in a

"Soon we'll be home," Lindahl said, and unexpectedly laughed, a
rusty sound as though he didn't do much laughing. "You're the reason
I came out," he said.

"Oh, yeah?"

"The TV's full of the robbery, all that money gone, I couldn't stand
it any more. Those guys don't get slapped around, I thought. Those
guys aren't afraid of their own shadow, they go out and do what has
to be done. I got so mad at myself-I'll tell you right now, I'm a
coward-I just had to come out with the gun awhile. Those two rabbits
back there, I can use them, God knows, but I didn't really need them
just yet. It was you brought me out."

Parker watched his profile. Now that he was talking, Lindahl seemed
just a little less bitter. Whatever was bothering him, it must make
it worse to hold it in. Lindahl gave him a quick glance, his
expression now almost merry. "And here you are," he said. "And up
close, I got to tell you, you don't look like that much of a

He steered left, down a steep slope, and the logging road met the


Excerpted from Ask the Parrot
by Richard Stark
Copyright © 2006 by Richard Stark .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Richard Stark has been hailed as one of the inventors-and one of the true masters-of noir crime fiction. Stark's most recent Parker novels, Comeback and Backflash, were each selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His first novel, The Hunter, became the classic 1967 movie Point Blank. Thirty years later, The Hunter was adapted again by Hollywood, in the hit Mel Gibson movie Payback. Richard Stark is also, at times, the mystery Grand Master Donald E. Westlake. To learn more about the author, you can visit

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