The Man With the Getaway Face

Mara's review of The Man With The Getaway Face

Donald Westlake, under his alter ego, Richard Stark has penned 24 Parker novels, beginning with 1962’s the Hunter, continuing with The Man With The Getaway Face (1963), The Outfit (1963), The Mourner (1963), and up until 2008’s Dirty Money. Parker is a thief, pure and simple, but he is not a gentleman burglar. He is not a frustrated ordinary man on the run from the law. Rather, he is a ruthless thug, who has little warmth for anyone and simply wants to get the job done. It is not necessary to read the Parker novels in order, although it helps to understand some of the context.

In the first novel, Parker was robbed by his wife and partner, shot, and left for dead. They didn’t count on his survival ability and he came back after them with a vengeance. His money that Mal had stolen from him had been paid to the Outfit (also known as the Syndicate) because Mal had owed a significant debt. Although the Outfit has a staff numbering in the hundreds (like the post office) and they are coast to coast, Parker is not deterred and is determined to get his money. No amount of tough guys seems able to stand in his way, although he leaves behind some enemies who, one of these days, mean to take him out- if they can.

At the end of the first book (the Hunter), Parker metaphorically rides off into the sunset, knowing that a lot of people have their eyes out for him. As the second book (“The Man With the Getaway Face”) begins, Parker has gone to Nebraska because he heard of a doctor who could change people’s faces. Remember, this is a 1963 novel when plastic surgery was such an amazing concept that it was assumed you could become completely unrecognizable after such surgery. On leaving the doctor’s office, Parker is warned by Stubbs (the shofar, etc for the doctor) that his secret is safe, but he better not think about coming after the doctor or the entire world will learn about his new identity. Let’s call this foreshadowing because it becomes hugely significant later in the story. Most of the Man with the Getaway Face is consumed with Parker’s efforts to pull of a heist of an armored car. He is not entirely sure of the loyalty of his accomplices and has some doubts if this heist is going sour. Some of the doubts are about his accomplices, particularly Alma, but the real bugaboo is when Stubbs shows up, saying that the doctor is dead and Parker is one of only three suspects and Stubbs may not be a lot of things, but he is going to avenge the doctor.

Parker is the same tough, no-nonsense hombre from the first book, but the pace and the level of violence is not quite as frenetic in this volume. It’s a good, tight plot that just hums along without a break. Parker here is not a barbarian back from the dead hell-bent for revenge. Nah, he just wants this armored car robbery to go off without a hitch. Parker’s not cruel. He just wants to get the job done.
The story here feels a bit minor compared to the great ball busting burst of energy that was the first book, but a good solid crime caper story.

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