Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Jugger

Perfection. That's what Richard Stark's 1965 novel, THE JUGGER, is: perfection. For those who love crime novels (though The University of Chicago bills it as a mystery), I recommend this book without reservation.

I prefer today's short stories to full-length modern novels that pad to hit a required word count. With Stark (Donald E. Westlake) every sentence is tighly constructed and no word wasted. Brilliant.

What novel would you consider flawless?

21 comments:

Ron Scheer said...

I posted a forgotten book review recently for SOLO FACES by James Salter. I feel the same way about his writing.

The real test of flawless writing is whether the ending is well conceived and crafted. It has to be unexpected and yet inevitable. That's hard to accomplish in otherwise perfect fiction of any length.

You make me want to read Eastlake. I don't think I ever have.

Randy Johnson said...

Liked this one also. I'm awaiting the spring publication of BUTCHERS MOON, the only Parker I haven't read. I've been buying this reissue series, but do have all the others in earlier editions. Since an original Butcher;s Moon runs up in the hundreds of dollars, it wasn't high on my list.

As for flawless, I'd have to thnik on that one. Get back to you.

Cullen Gallagher said...

The Jugger rules! The first Parker I read was Slayground, which remains one of my favorites, though I still have a number that I need to catch up on.

Chad said...

Except for a few in the middle that lag and seem written by the numbers, the Parker novels are, without exception, perfection. As a writer, that's both inspiring and disheartening.

Charles Gramlich said...

Good enough for me!

David Cranmer said...

Ron, I would start with THE HUNTER (made into movies as POINT BLANK and PAYBACK.)

Randy, I’ve read the first three and then everything after COMEBACK. This middle period is all new to me.

Cullen, I have around ten and am working through them pretty damn fast.

Chad, I’m guessing that is why Westlake stopped in the early seventies and didn’t return until the 90s. I wish other writers would follow that lead instead of draining the well.

Charles, Let me know what you think.

pattinase (abbott) said...

THE CLOCKMAKER by Georges Simenon. Again its brevity makes it. Also close to it is Dave's THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD.
A writer who knows the right length for his book has such an advantage.
I need to read these Parker books clearly.

David Cranmer said...

Dave's THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD was damn fine reading.

Chris said...

David, that whole series is my go-to for pure pulp perfection. Westlake as Stark brings it every time, and THE JUGGER may be the best of a great bunch. And man, why aren't novels of that length considered acceptable anymore?

As far as other perfect novels, I'd say for me, Block's EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE, Donna Tartt's THE SECRET HISTORY, the long but magnificient JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL, Ross Macdonald's THE DROWNING POOL, and maybe Hammett's THE THIN MAN and RED HARVEST.

Jodi MacArthur said...

Sounds terrific! It's so great getting good mystery recommendations from times past. Without getting my panties in a bunch thinking about it, "Of Mice and Men" by Steinbeck is, to me, simply perfect.

David Cranmer said...

Chris, I haven't read Donna Tartt's THE SECRET HISTORY and made note.

Jodi, Good call. It has been awhile since I've read
Steinbeck but without a doubt a deserved classic. Most film versions of this novel are tops as well.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

I'd have to say THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE by Alan Bradley. Definitely a gem!

David Cranmer said...

Alan Bradley is new to me, Alyssa. Have you blogged about this book? Anyway, duly noted.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

As a matter of fact, I did, David:

http://alyssagoodnight.blogspot.com/2009/10/book-review-club-october.html

David Cranmer said...

How'd I miss that? We're we arguing or something? Ha. Got it now though. Gracias, amiga.

Clare2e said...

The JUGGER is one of MY perfect novels, too! I reread it when I want to remember what neat and clean brutality is like. It's the best!

I guess for me the perfect novel will always have distinctive style points that help set it apart. William Gibson's Neuromancer is like that, a completely immersive story written in the patois of a futuristic world I'd never experienced. By the time I'd learned the lingua franca, I'd been transformed by it.

Like Chris Holm I loved Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel as a signature achievement, and I've been dancing around Lorne Field. I guess with so many recommendations, I'll stop dancing around it on my wish list and dive in!

Chris said...

Ah hell, Clare -- how could I forget NEUROMANCER? I just reread it a few months back, too. For sure add that to my list.

Clare2e said...

I'm lucky that way, too, Chris. I've read so many great, inspiring things, I do forget them here and there.

David Cranmer said...

Chris/Clare, Don't be shocked but almost four years ago I tried reading the Gibson book (Denise recommended it) and I couldn't finish it. I'm thinking I wasn't in the mood for that genre (at the time) and should give it another try.

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