Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Alan Grofield Is Offered the Chance to Become a Spy

As virtually all crime fiction fans know, "Richard Stark" was one of the several pseudonyms used by the prolific author, Donald Westlake. Writing as Stark, he was best known for his series featuring the amoral criminal known as Parker which ultimately ran to twenty-four novels. As Stark, Westlake also wrote four novels featuring Alan Grofield who appeared in several of the Parker novels as Parker's sidekick.

The Blackbird is the third of the Grofield novels and, in an interesting move, shares a first chapter with the Parker novel Slayground. In the chapter, Parker, Grofield and a third man are racing away from an armored car robbery when their car flips over with the cops in hot pursuit. InSlayground, Parker manages to get away and we watch what happens with him in the aftermath of his escape.

Grofield is not so lucky, and in this book we see what happens to him. He's captured by the police and is in the hospital recovering from the minor injuries he suffered in the crash. He's been caught red-handed and is staring at a long prison sentence. But then some mysterious government agents appear and offer him a way out.

A group of third-world leaders has gathered for a mysterious meeting and the G-men would like to know what they're up to. As it happens, Grofield is acquainted with two of the men who will be at the meeting and the agents want him to infiltrate the meeting and report back. This is a highly dangerous task, but if he completes it, the government will give him a pass on the armored car robbery.

Grofield is not remotely attracted by the idea of becoming a spy, but he's also not very enthused about spending the next several years in prison. So he agrees to go along, figuring that he'll devise a way to escape and worm his way out of the situation. The story that follows strains credulity beyond any reasonable or even unreasonable limits, but that doesn't really matter. Grofield is a much lighter and more amusing character than Parker, and it's a lot of fun just watching him maneuver his way through this mess. This is a light and very entertaining read that should appeal to anyone who has met Alan Grofield through the Parker novels and would like to see him working on his own.

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