Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Stark descriptions

An important date with C. C. Sabathia has kept me away from the computer for long enough that I can't offer a proper post tonight. Instead, I'll just quickly share a couple of sharply observed moments I've come across during my current Richard Stark jag. First, from Slayground (1971), a line I love about a guy working boring guard duty:
The guy was leaning against the wall there, smoking, looking at his cigarette between puffs as though trying to understand the principle of its operation.
Later in the novel, Parker gets the drop on a crooked but easily scared cop:
Parker nodded at the gun on Dunstan's hip. "Now there's that," he said. "I want you to take it out very slow, using thumb and forefinger only, and holding it only by the butt. Go ahead."

Dunstan did it, moving so slowly Parker almost told him to speed it up. But sweat was breaking out on Dunstan's face now, the idea of drawing the gun with Parker armed and standing in front of him was shaking him up so much he was liable to faint, so Parker waited him out, and when Dunstan finally held the gun out to him Parker took it, flipped open the chamber, and shook the cartridges out. Then he gave the gun back to Dunstan and told him, "Put it back in your holster." When Dunstan started trying to do it while holding the gun with thumb and forefinger, he said, "No, you can hold it the regular way now." Dunstan made a nervous embarrassed laugh and put the gun away.
Currently I'm about halfway through The Rare Coin Score, which introduces us to Claire, who will come to play a big role in Parker's life. As often happens when Parker can't instantly size up someone he meets, their first encounter doesn't go so well. She shows up at his hotel when he's expecting someone to arrive to tell him about a planned heist; surprised to see a woman, he rudely runs her through some code words before letting her in, then:
She came in, still unruffled and self-possessed, saying, "Is all that caution really needed at this point?"

He shut the door. "I didn't expect a woman," he said.

"Oh? Why not?"

"It's unprofessional."

She smiled slightly, with one side of her mouth. "It doesn't sound like a very rewarding profession."
Having first come across Claire in Stark's later novels, I'd always thought of her as a Jeanne Tripplehorn or Lara Flynn Boyle type, but that answer's straight Bacall. No wonder she turns out to be able to more or less keep up with Parker; I'd never have the guts to bet against Bacall.

No comments:

Post a Comment