Skip to main content

Ask The Parrot


Ask The Parrot

Commencing over a quarter-century ago, Richard Stark's Parker
series has been a reliably dark, existential template of how the
task of genre writing should be performed. While each volume is
carried by a comfortably predictable plotline --- Parker commits a
crime, escapes jeopardy and commits another crime --- there is a
rough, unpredictable thread running through each and every
paragraph, a hint that this, or perhaps the next, event that takes
place may spell the end to Parker and to the series.

Stark's prose in ASK THE PARROT is consistent with his other work;
it is not grandiose, but its clean, dark narrative voice compels
and propels. Though the book picks up where 2004's NOBODY RUNS
FOREVER leaves off, it is not necessary to have read that work or,
for that matter, any of the previous Parker novels to fully
appreciate what occurs here. You learn all you need to know almost
immediately: Parker is a bad guy who does bad things when he has to
and kills when he must; he is the ultimate pragmatist without
regret. Stark, as is his wont, has teased and toyed with classic
plot devices in prior Parker novels, and does so once again in ASK

In a brilliant maneuver, Stark (aka Mystery Writers of America's
Grand Master Donald E. Westlake) introduces a deus ex
character named Tom Lindahl at the beginning of the
story. Lindahl rescues Parker from almost certain capture by the
authorities, who are pursuing Parker in the aftermath of a
disastrous bank heist. Lindahl is leading a bitterly reclusive
existence in rural Massachusetts, nursing anger and plotting
revenge against his former employer, a race track that fired him
when he discovered and revealed financial improprieties that were
taking place on the premises. He has a strategy to gain a cold
measure of revenge against the track, but he lacks the nerve to
execute it.

When fate deposits Parker practically at Lindahl's doorstep, it is
as if Lindahl's prayers have been answered. Parker is intrigued
with Lindahl's story and his plan, but Parker still has to contend
with the manhunt that swirls around him (count Parker's evasion
plan as another stroke of genius on the author's part), as well as
Lindahl's occasionally surfacing reticence, and twin brothers who
aren't smart enough to track a train but nonetheless recognize
Parker for who, if not what, he is.

One senses after reading ASK THE PARROT that Parker's extended run
of luck could be coming to an end, though this might occur in any
number of ways, with various results. The only certainty one might
anticipate is that such an ending, should it ever happen, will not
be predictable in occurrence or outcome. We can only hope that this
takes place later rather than sooner.


Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 22, 2010

Ask The Parrot
by Richard Stark

  • Publication Date: November 23, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • ISBN-10: 089296068X
  • ISBN-13: 9780892960682