Firebreak (Parker Series #20)

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Between Parker’s 1961 debut and his return in the late 1990s, the world of crime changed considerably. Now fake IDs and credit cards had to be purchased from specialists; increasingly sophisticated policing made escape and evasion tougher; and, worst of all, money had gone digital—the days of cash-stuffed payroll trucks were long gone. Firebreak takes Parker to a palatial Montana “hunting lodge” where a dot-com millionaire hides a gallery of stolen old masters—which will fetch Parker a pretty penny if his team ...
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Firebreak (Parker Series #20)

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Between Parker’s 1961 debut and his return in the late 1990s, the world of crime changed considerably. Now fake IDs and credit cards had to be purchased from specialists; increasingly sophisticated policing made escape and evasion tougher; and, worst of all, money had gone digital—the days of cash-stuffed payroll trucks were long gone. Firebreak takes Parker to a palatial Montana “hunting lodge” where a dot-com millionaire hides a gallery of stolen old masters—which will fetch Parker a pretty penny if his team can just get it past the mansion’s tight security. The forests of Montana are an inhospitable place for a heister when well-laid plans fall apart, but no matter how untamed the wilderness, Parker’s guaranteed to be the most dangerous predator around.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Parker and crew have their eyes on the contents of a secret vault in a billionaire's hunting lodge in this typically taut thriller written by Donald E. Westlake under his nom de noir, but first the tough antihero must deal, roughly, with some people trying to whack him. A Russian hit man provides the overture action as Parker attracts the attention of enemies from the past and meets the killer mercilessly. Parker spends much of the rest of the book seeking out the source of the contract, gradually learning that his current job has brought his name and whereabouts to the surface. The job is one his old partners, Elkins and Wiss, have put on the table: a stash of paintings by Old Masters stolen from museums around the world and kept in dot-com mogul Paxton Marino's Montana lodge for his personal pleasure. To get past Marino's sophisticated electronic safeguards, they need help from a computer-nerd-gone-bad, really bad, named Lloyd. The author delivers this novel with the economy of a 1950s paperback original ("Twelve thousand dollars in twenties and fifties was rolled into an orange juice concentrate can in the freezer"), but slips in enough plot twists and surprises to satisfy the most modern audience (no heist ever written by Stark/Westlake comes off without lots of hitches). That Parker, on general principles, doesn't bump off Lloyd at first sight almost seems like a sign of weakness, but it's the only one in this deliciously nasty read. (Nov. 14) Forecast: Coming on the heels of Flashfire (2000), the last Parker novel, this one promises to be just as big a hit for MWA Grand Master and three-time Edgar-winner Westlake. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Stark (Backflash, LJ 9/1/98), a pseudonym for prolific crime-fiction writer Donald E. Westlake, offers another adventure in his long-running "Parker" series. This latest shows that Stark retains the gift for careful plotting and darkly humorous circumstances that can make his books a joy to read for patrons who don't mind the violence. Parker, once described by critic Stanley Bart as a thief who "gets annoyed and kills everybody," has mellowed a bit over time. Though the novel begins with Parker's calmly killing a man while being called to the phone, he keeps his rampages to a minimum as the book progresses. He stays focused on the jobs at hand, first helping to steal a treasure trove of art that a dot-com billionaire has secreted away and then finding out who sent the man in the garage to kill him. Parker is amoral and ruthless, but he's not cruel. He is surrounded by people who are also amoral but evil or stupid as well, which allows him to play the hero's role by being calm and thorough and by being a survivor. Recommended for public libraries. Patrick J. Wall, University City P.L., MO Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
New York Times - William Grimes

“Parker . . . lumbers through the pages of Richard Stark’s noir novels scattering dead bodies like peanut shells. . . . In a complex world [he] makes things simple.”
Elmore Leonard

“Whatever Stark writes, I read. He’s a stylist, a pro, and I thoroughly enjoy his attitude."
Bookforum - John Banville

“Richard Stark’s Parker novels . . . are among the most poised and polished fictions of their time and, in fact, of any time.”
New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio

“Parker is a true treasure. . . . The master thief is back, along with Richard Stark.”
Washington Post

“Westlake knows precisely how to grab a reader, draw him or her into the story, and then slowly tighten his grip until escape is impossible.”
Los Angeles Times

“Elmore Leonard wouldn’t write what he does if Stark hadn’t been there before. And Quentin Tarantino wouldn’t write what he does without Leonard. . . . Old master that he is, Stark does all of them one better.”
Lawrence Block

“Donald Westlake’s Parker novels are among the small number of books I read over and over. Forget all that crap you’ve been telling yourself about War and Peace and Proust—these are the books you’ll want on that desert island.”
New York Times Book Review - Anthony Boucher

“Richard Stark writes a harsh and frightening story of criminal warfare and vengeance with economy, understatement and a deadly amoral objectivity—a remarkable addition to the list of the shockers that the French call roman noirs.”
New York Review of Books - Luc Sante

"Parker is a brilliant invention. . . . What chiefly distinguishes Westlake, under whatever name, is his passion for process and mechanics. . . . Parker appears to have eliminated everything from his program but machine logic, but this is merely protective coloration. He is a romantic vestige, a free-market anarchist whose independent status is becoming a thing of the past."
Commentary - Terry Teachout

"Whether early or late, the Parker novels are all superlative literary entertainments."
Virginia Quarterly Review - John McNally

"If you're a fan of noir novels and haven't yet read Richard Stark, you may want to give these books a try. Who knows? Parker may just be the son of a bitch you've been searching for."
Vue Weekly - Josef Braun

"The University of Chicago Press has recently undertaken a campaign to get Parker back in print in affordable and handsome editions, and I dove in. And now I get it."
Globe and Mail - H. J. Kirchoff

“The UC Press mission, to reprint the 1960s Parker novels of Richard Stark (the late Donald Westlake), is wholly admirable. The books have been out of print for decades, and the fast-paced, hard-boiled thrillers featuring the thief Parker are brilliant.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620647363
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/13/2013
  • Series: Parker Series , #20
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Sales rank: 1,086,411
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Stark, aka Donald E. Westlake (1933–2008), wrote dozens of novels under his own name and a rainbow of other pseudonyms. Many of his books have been adapted for film, most notably The Hunter, which became the 1967 noir Point Blank, and the 1999 smash Payback.

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Read an Excerpt


By Richard Stark

Mysterious Press

Copyright © 2001 Richard Stark
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-892-96711-0

Chapter One

When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man. His knees pressed down on the interloper's back, his hands were clasped around his forehead. He heard the phone ring, distantly, in the house, as he jerked his forearms back; heard the neck snap; heard the phone's second ring, cut off, as Claire answered, somewhere in the house.

No time to do anything with the body now. Parker stood and was entering the kitchen from the garage when Claire came in the other way, carrying the cordless. "He says his name is Elkins," she told him.

He knew the name. This would have nothing to do with the interloper. Taking the cordless, he said, "I'll have to go out for a while." Then, moving into the dining room, where the windows looked away from the lake, out toward the woods where the stranger had come from, he said, "Frank?"

It was the familiar voice: "Ralph and I maybe have something."

Parker didn't see anybody else out there, among the trees, where the first one had come crouching, a long-barreled pistol held against his right leg; long because it was equipped with a silencer. Parker had first seen him from this room, tracked his moves, met him when he came in the side window of the garage. Into the phone, still watching the empty woods, he said, "You want to call me, or do I call you?"

"Either way."

Parker gave him the number, backward, of the pay phone at the gas station a few miles from here, then said, "Give me a little while, I've got something to finish up here." The woods stayed empty. Now, early October, the trees were still fully leafed out, though starting to turn, and too dense for him to see as far as the road.

Elkins said, "Eleven?" "Good."

Parker hung up, went back to the garage, and searched the body. There were a wallet, a Ford automobile key, a motel room key, a five-inch spring knife, a pair of sunglasses, and a Zippo lighter but no cigarettes. A green and yellow football helmet was embossed on the lighter. The wallet contained a little over four hundred dollars in cash, three credit cards made out to Viktor Charov, and an Illinois driver's license to the same name, with an address in Chicago. The picture on the license was the dead man: fiftyish, rail-thin, almost bald with a little pepper-and-salt hair around the edges, eyes that didn't show much.

Parker kept the wallet and the key to the Ford, put the rest back, and stuffed the body into the trunk of the Lexus. Then he crossed to the button next to the kitchen entry that operated the overhead garage door, but first slid open the concealed wood panel above it and took out the S&W Chiefs Special .38 he kept stashed there. Finally, then, he pushed the button, and kept the bulk of the Lexus between himself and the steadily lifting view outside.

Nothing. Nobody.

Hand and revolver at his side, like the other one, he stepped out to the chill sunshine and walked at a normal pace out the driveway to the road, watching the woods on both sides. There were other houses around the lake, none of them visible from here, most of them already closed for the winter. Parker and Claire were among the few year-rounders, and they always moved somewhere else in the summer, when the city people came out to their "cottages" and the powerboats snarled on the lake.

The road was empty. Down to the right, fifty paces, stood a red Ford Taurus. Parker walked toward it and saw the rental company sticker on the bumper. The dead man's Ford key fit the Taurus. Parker started it, swung it around, and drove back to the house, turning in at the driveway where the mailbox read WILLIS.

The garage door stood open, as he'd left it, the dark green Lexus bulking in there. Parker swung the Ford around, backed it to the open doorway, and switched off the engine. Getting out, he put the S&W away, then took a pair of rubber gloves from the Lexus glove compartment and slipped them on. Then he opened both trunks and moved the body into the Ford.

The dead man's gun was a .357 Colt Trooper with a ribbed silencer clamped behind the front sight. Snapping off the silencer, he put both pieces in a drawer of the worktable under the window where the stranger had come in, his balance between table and floor thrown off just long enough.

On the way into the house, he shut the garage door, its wood sections sliding down between the Lexus and the Ford. He went through the kitchen and found Claire in the living room, reading a magazine. She looked up when he came in, and he said, "I'd like you to pick me up, at the Mobil station, five after eleven."

"Fine. Can we go somewhere for lunch?" "You pick it."

"I will. See you then." She didn't ask, and wouldn't ask, not because he didn't want to tell her but because she didn't want to know. Whatever happened out of her sight didn't happen.

Three miles beyond the Mobil station a dirt road led off to an old gravel quarry, used up half a century ago by the road building after World War II. The chain-link fences surrounding the property were old and staggering, a joke, and the Warning and No Trespassing and Posted signs had been so painted over by hunters and lovers down the years that they looked like Pollocks.

Parker drove through a broken-down part of the fence and stopped, in neutral, engine on, all the windows open, at the lip, where the stony trash-laden ground ran steeply down to the water that had filled the excavation as soon as work had stopped. Getting out, shutting the door, he moved around behind the Ford and leaned on it. As soon as it started to move, he stepped back, peeling off the gloves, putting them in his pocket, and watched the car bounce down through the rocks and trash till it shoved into the water, making a modest ripple in front of itself that opened out and out and didn't stop till it pinged against the stone at the far side of the quarry. As the car angled down, the black water all around it became suddenly crystal clear as it splashed in through the open windows. The roof sank, a few bubbles appeared, and then only the ripple, going out, slowly fading.

He walked back along the state road to the Mobil station, getting there five minutes early, and leaned against the pay phone, at the outer corner of the station property. A couple of customers came in for gas, paying no attention to him. It was self-serve, so the attendant stayed inside his convenience store.

At two minutes after eleven, the phone rang. Parker stepped around into the booth, which was just a three-sided metal box on a stick, picked up the receiver, and said, "Yes."

It was Elkins' voice: "So I guess you're not too busy right now."

"Not busy," Parker agreed.

"I got something," Elkins told him. "Me and Ralph." Meaning the partner he almost always paired with, Ralph Wiss. "But it won't be easy."

They were never easy. Parker said, "Where?"

"Soon. Sooner the better. We got a deadline." That was different. Usually, the jobs didn't come with deadlines. Parker said, "You want me to listen?" "Not now," Elkins said. He sounded surprised. "I didn't mean now."

"Oh. Yeah, if you wanna take a drive." "Where?" "Lake Placid."

A resort in northern New York State, close to Canada. If that was the spot for the meet, it wouldn't be the spot for the work. Parker said, "When?"

"Three tomorrow afternoon?"

Meaning a seven-hour drive, from eight in the morning. Parker said, "Because of your deadline." "And we don't like to keep things hang around." Which was true. The longer a job was in the planning, the more chance the law would get wind of it. Parker said, "I can make that," and the Lexus turned in from the road.

"At the Holiday Inn," Elkins said. "Unless you know anybody up that way."

"I do," Parker said. "Viktor Charov. You want to meet there?" Claire swung the Lexus around to put the passenger door next to the phone.

"Viktor Charov," Elkins said. "I'll find him." "Good," Parker said.


Excerpted from Firebreak by Richard Stark Copyright © 2001 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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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2012

    Leader den

    Is inside of the highrock. A cozy duck feathered nest sits in the croner.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 4, 2011

    release the eBook!

    It's available for the Kindle - release it for the Nook (it's the last one)!

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Effective anti-hero thriller

    Parker has two jobs both critical to his well being. One is more along the line of his normal work. Parker is employed to steal stolen art treasures stored in a remote area of Montana. The ¿owner¿ Paxton Marino is a computer whiz billionaire so Parker knows he can expect anything and needs an electronic expert along for the ride. <P>The other job is a bit more personal. Someone hired a pro to kill Parker. He needs to know who and why so he can concentrate on the art theft. The problem is over the years in his line of work Parker has made many enemies who would gladly urinate on his grave. As Parker makes inquiries through his underground connections, he soon realizes the art job resurfaced his name to some nasty people who simply detest him. Still Big Sky is calling and with the help of an electronic genius lunatic, Parker goes to work on purloining the art treasures. <P>FIREBREAK is the typical Parker tale as the exciting story line is loaded with twists and turns yet the stark plot uses no unnecessary baggage. The tale belongs to Parker who seems relatively mellow compared to his maniacal sidekick (why trust this psychopath is beyond this reviewer). Still, this wild ride across the Northern Plains is an effective anti-hero thriller that proves Richard Stark under that name or as Donald Westlake can still be counted on for top-notch modern day noir. <P>Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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