Hard Case by Dan Simmons
Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich
US writer Dan Simmons, a versatile author known for his Endymion sci-fi
series as well as a clutch of vampire and other fantasy novels, has set
himself a demanding task to create a "good/bad guy" hoodlum
non-pareil equivalent to "Richard Starks" (Donald E. Westlakes)
charismatic, ultra cool "Parker".
The late Lee Marvin personified Parker (named "Walker") in John
Boormans 1967 movie Point Blank adapted from Starks first
Parker book The Hunter. Robert Duvall did likewise in John Flynns
The Outfit (1973). In 1968 black actor and athlete Jim Brown essayed the
role In The Split as did, in 1983, Peter Coyote (Slayground). Neither
could hold a candle to Lee Marvins portrayal.
There are twenty-four "Parker" novels penned by the fictitious
"Richard Stark". The most recent is Firebreak (in hardcover).
If Parker were real, hed now be in his early seventies and in Firebreak
hes even more lethal than his previous thirty-five year old incarnation.
Dan Simmons "Joe Kurtz" is an embittered former private-eye
and ex-con. He served almost twelve years for torturing and defenestrating
the killer of the mother of Joes daughter Rachel, almost fourteen.
For most of her life, Joe has been a jailbird.
Joe obliges the Farino Mob to engage his services as an investigator,
trying to locate Mob accountant Buell Richardson, and he leaves behind
a blood-boltered trail of derring-do and mayhem. Yet, being in the "Parker"
mold, Kurtz is admirable for an (amoral) code to which he hews stolidly.
The testosterone drenched Alpha-Male exemplified in the "Travis McGee"
novels by the late, great John D. McDonald (one of whose many superlative
novels was filmed as Cape Fear in 1962) is perceived today as a menace
to society and is an endangered species, despite his undisputed superiority
to most mere mortals. As well as being thoroughly intimidating, the Alpha-Male
is unerringly and without fail one step ahead of everyone else.
Todays p.c. "shrinking violents" resent this edge that
the classic dominant male figure boasts.
An author like Dan Simmons is content to rejoice in the edge held by thinking-man
lone wolves and outlaws bent upon retribution.
by Janet Evanovich
By way of direct, irrefutable contrast, Janet Evanovichs "Stephanie
Plum", bond-enforcement agent in her eighth outing, Hard Eight is
all repartee, persiflage, wisecracks and self-deprecation. Evanovichs
novels are wildly inventive and devoted to an incessant stream of blue-collar
pseudo-feminist rants and ravings, yet invariably become tedious and wearisome
to the point of outstaying their welcome.
An accident-prone disaster waiting to happen and a romantic-run-amok,
Stephanie always triumphs over adversity (implausibly so) thanks to her
guardian angels: macho cop Joe Morelli and supermacho Latino mystery-man
Ranger (aka The Wizard). Ms. Plum is inevitably one step behind here pair
of stalwart Alpha-Males. Cleverly disguised Harlequin bodice-rippers,
Evanovichs books are simply too much of a fairly good thing. That
good thing being her depiction of the community of eccentrics in Trenton,
© Alex Grant September 2002
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