By Richard Stark
Hard Case Crime
I don't think I've ever read a bad Donald Westlake book. And when he writes as Richard Stark, there seems to be an even harder edge to his work. This book is no exception.
Alan Grofield is a theater actor who moonlights as a robber to support his small, community theater. He is also a professional at his outlaw career and knows a bad deal when he hears one. Such is the case when he's brought on to a job being planned by a fellow named Andrew Meyers. Meyers is a flamboyant, loudmouth who wants to rob a manufacturing plant in upstate New York and escape over into Canada when the job is done. Grofield is invited into the heist by his long time friend and associate, Dan Leach.
When Leach and Grofield learn that Meyer's plan involves shooting down guards at the factory, both them exit the job immediately. Their walking away makes an enemy of Meyers, who in turn sets about stealing money from Leach that he had won at the local casino. Leach becomes obessed with Meyers and getting his money back. Grofield, on the other hand opts to cut his loses and return to his wife and the theater.
Unfortunately bad pennies like Andy Meyers have a way of resurfacing and eventually he murders Leach, who has come to stay at Grofield's home while he is away on another job. Upon his return home, Grofield learns the true depratvity of Andy Meyers. Thus is born his need for vengeance and he begins tracking down the psychopath with ruthless determination.
Stark's ability to make his characters live on the page is sheer genius and he uses subtlety to drive the suspense and tension throughout. Pages have to be turned, as the reader gets caught up in the tale with a feverish need to reach the climax. Where, as always, this master doesn't disappoint. The only true bad thing about any Westlake/Stark book is that it must end. Let's hope the next one is only a little ways down the road.
This is crime suspense by a master.