By the time 1967 rolled around, Donald Westlake had really found his groove with the novels he wrote under the name Richard Stark starring a hard-nosed, emotionless thief named Parker. The commercial success of the series had far outpaced the popularity of the comedic crime novels Westlake authored under his own name, and the quality of the Parker stories showed no indication of deteriorating. That was also the year that Parker’s 10th paperback adventure, “The Green Eagle Score,” hit spinner racks.
The story opens with Parker and his woman sunning themselves on a Puerto Rican beach when a visitor from Parker’s past arrives with a business opportunity. Fusco is fresh out of the joint after doing a three-year stretch and his ex-wife is dating a U.S. Air Force paper-pusher named Devers. The relationship between Fusco, Devers, and Ellen the ex-wife is surprisingly cordial, and they’ve stumbled upon an opportunity for a $400,000 payroll heist at an upstate New York Air Force base. Pulling a theft on a military installation poses some logistical hurdles, so they need an expert planner like Parker to make it happen.
Parker has the appropriate misgivings about working with amateurs, but he leaves the beach and his girl behind, so he can assess the viability of the score in New York. As always, Parker is the consummate, stoic professional, and his time spent in New York casing the base and weighing the pros and cons of the heist make for some predictably outstanding scenes.
Westlake shifts the third-party perspective quite a bit in this installment, and along the way the reader is treated to scenes where ex-wife Ellen repeatedly overshares with her therapist unwittingly tipping the shrink to the upcoming robbery and getaway plan. Could this create a problem for the crew down the line?
There’s a lot of build-up and character drama leading up to the heist. I found it all very interesting, but it wasn’t exactly action-packed. Once the execution of the job is underway and the plan goes sideways, fans of the series will feel right at home. Overall, this wasn’t the best Parker novel, but that’s only because of the high watermark set by the rest of the series. If “The Green Eagle Score” was a stand-alone novel, it would be regarded as a masterpiece of the heist genre. Instead, it’s just an average installment in a masterpiece of a series. You should definitely read it, but be aware how it stacks up in the Richard Stark canon. Recommended.
An exciting book bonus abridgment of “The Green Eagle Score” was printed in the July 1968 issue of “For Men Only” magazine under the name “The Young Bedroom Raiders” with some sweet men’s adventure magazine illustrations.
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