The Jugger by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake)

RICHARD STARK The Jugger Donald E. Westlake 1st Printing NEAR FINE Paperback | eBay

A jugger sounds like some mythical creature out of Dr. Seuss’s imagination. What in blazes is it? Apparently, in the world of Parker, a jugger is a safecracker, although I haven’t seen that slang anywhere else..

Joe Sheer is a retired jugger. But, he’s still connected to the life. He knows everyone and has many good ideas. For Parker, this guy Sheer is his contact when he disappears into his Charles Willis identity. Someone wants to contact Parker about a job, they don’t go and blow up his safe identity. They call Sheer. Sheer contacts Parker or holds the info till Parker makes contact. It’s like having a private mail drop. So what happens when something goes wrong with this private mail drop? What happens if someone gets the drop on old man Sheer and finds out that Charles Willis is Parker. Well, all kinds of trouble and enough to fill a whole book.

The Jugger is the sixth Parker novel and not considered to be one of the best. Westlake himself has had misgivings about this one, deciding after it was published that Parker wouldn’t have gone to Sagamore to help anyone, but it’s been pointed out that Parker’s goal was preserving his clean identity of Charles Willis, a Parkerian selfish motive. This one differs from the other Parkers in that there wasn’t a caper he was pursuing or escaping from, but Parker still had a mission here. When his contact ( Joe Sheer) went missing, Parker needed to know if anyone was on to Parker’s own identity.
It has some amusing bits when Parker gets to town and every yahoo he meets thinks Parker is after the same thing they are, but Parker just plays along.

Particularly good was the creation of the character of Captain Younger, who, even for a bumbling small town cop, has a fascinating backstory. Younger is a yahoo who found his calling in the US Army and then after putting in his thirty years, doesn’t know where to send his pension check to. His folks are gone. He doesn’t know anyone he cares to contact. So he has his check sent general delivery to Sagamore where he lived thirty years earlier and ends up there.

But Westlake’s delivery is smooth and he tells the story well. Thumbs up.

What’s so great about these Parker books? They are written smoothly in a matter of fact style. It feels like Stark (Westlake) doesn’t use any extraneous words. As the name implies, the verbiage is stark. It’s not fancy. It’s not flowery. Stark is just a great storyteller. If you haven’t read the Parker series before, you are sure in for a treat.

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