FORGOTTEN BOOKS #156: SLAYGROUND By Richard Stark (AKA Donald E. Westlake)

Back in the Seventies, I was reading Richard Stark’s Parker novels in order. Parker is a professional thief who undertakes carefully planned capers in every book. But, of course, things go wrong. Things go very wrong in Slayground, my favorite Parker novel. Parker, his occasional partner (and actor) Grofield, and a driver knock off an armored car. But in the ensuing escape, the driver crashes the car. Parker flees the scene of the crime with a satchel holding $73,000. But things go from bad to worse when Parker accidentally witnesses a pay-off between the local gangster and two dirty cops. Then Parker takes refuge in a shut-down amusement park, preparing for the gangsters who will come to kill him. I always thought that Slayground would have made a great film in the Die Hard series as Parker stealthily takes out gangster after gangster. Parker might be outnumbered, but he’s deadly. If you haven’t read Slayground or the rest of Donald E. Westlake’s “Richard Stark” novels, you’re in for a treat.
1 The Hunter 1962
2 The Man With the Getaway Face 1963
3 The Outfit 1963
4 The Mourner 1963
5 The Score 1964
6 The Jugger 1965
7 The Seventh 1966
8 The Handle 1966
G-1 The Damsel (Grofield) 1967
9 The Rare Coin Score 1967
10 The Green Eagle Score 1967
G-2 The Dame (Grofield) 1968
11 The Black Ice Score 1968
12 The Sour Lemon Score 1969
G-3 The Blackbird (Grofield) 1969
13 Deadly Edge 1971
14 Slayground 1971
G-4 Lemons Never Lie (Grofield) 1971
15 Plunder Squad 1972
16 Butcher’s Moon 1974
17 Comeback 1997
18 Backflash 1998
19 Flashfire 2000
20 Firebreak 2001
21 Breakout 2002
22 Nobody Runs Forever 2004
23 Ask the Parrot 2006
24 Dirty Money 2008

27 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN BOOKS #156: SLAYGROUND By Richard Stark (AKA Donald E. Westlake)

  1. Randy Johnson

    Parker might be my favorite series in this genre. I do think the last few didn’t go nearly as well as I’d hoped. Overall, though, it’s a consistently set of books. Funny thing, I didn’t know of it’s existence until PAYBACK, the Gibson vehicle. I owe him for that anyway.

  2. Dan

    In my youth, I was profoundly influenced by the “Parker” books, which led me to a life of danger and international intrigue. SLAYGROUND somehow always reminded me of a gimmicky BATMAN comic.

    1. george Post author

      SLAYGROUND is a change of pace novel, Dan. The other Parker novels follow a similar template. That’s what makes SLAYGROUND stand out for me.

  3. Drongo

    THE SCORE is my favorite Parker.

    I agree with Dan about SLAYGROUND, but I can hardly blame Westlake for trying something different. One imagines he must have been getting a bit restless with the series by the early 70’s. I know they have their partisans, but with the exception of BREAKOUT I didn’t care for the second go-round. BUTCHER’S MOON was such a perfect send-off.

    Whatever my complaints, and they are mostly minor ones, I think with the Parker books that Westlake created one of the greatest characters in crime fiction history.

    1. george Post author

      I totally agree with you, Drongo. The Parker series is special because Westlake was able to sustain the formula at such a high level for so long.

  4. Jeff Meyerson

    Wasn’t BUTCHER’S MOON the sequel to SLAYGROUND, Drongo? I agree that was the perfect end to the series, though of course I’ve read every one that followed. Just great stuff.

    1. george Post author

      I kept hoping BUTCHER’S MOON wasn’t the end of the Parker series, Jeff. Then, out of nowhere, Westlake started writing them again. My favorite of the “late” Parkers is the one about knocking off the riverboat casino.

  5. Sergio (Tipping My Fedora)

    Great post George – in the 90s I read the original 60 and 70s sequence in order, barring the final one which I just couldn;t lay my hands on. The Parker books are wonderful – I just got the reprint of BUTCHER’S MOON recently so was planning on re-reading SLAYGROUND to refresh my memory before going to the sequel. Now, if the Press would just re-print JIMMY THE KID too …

    1. george Post author

      I remember trying to find the early Parkers, Sergio. I finally found THE HUNTER in a bookstore in Rochester, Minnesota. Now, of course, we have the Internet to find the books we need for us.

  6. Drongo

    @Jeff Myerson

    BUTCHER’S MOON is kind of a sequel, since Parker goes back to retrieve the loot he was forced to stash away in SLAYGROUND.

    1. george Post author

      I remember when I first read SLAYGROUND and Parker stashed the loot from the armored car robbery in the amusement park, I just knew he was going back for it, Jeff. And, in BUTCHER’S MOON, he did.

  7. BVLawson

    This is one I missed, George! And I don’t mind the chance of pace from the other Parker novels. Sounds like it might bring some new insights into the character.

  8. Todd Mason

    Todd Mason passes around that:

    TRUST ME ON THIS and BABY, WOULD I LIE? have a further sequel in “Come Again?” from THE MYSTERIOUS PRESS ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY and the Westlake colletion A GOOD STORY.

    The tabloid is THE WEEKLY GALAXY, as Richard Lupoff was quick to point out, as a further slap at GALAXY sf magazine, one of the targets of Westlake’s vociferous “resignation” from science fiction, which he sent for publication in the Lupoff’s amateur magazine XERO.

  9. Drongo

    I found a copy at the library a few days ago, and since the last time I read it was 2001, I decided to read it again. (For the third time.) A lot better and suspenseful than I had remembered.


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