Ask the Parrot

[Amazon Link]

This is number 23 in the "Parker" series written by the late Donald Westlake (writing as Richard Stark). For some reason it never came out in paperback, so I got a cheapo used hardcover from Amazon.

For those who don't know: Parker is kind of a bad guy, making a living of taking things that don't belong to him. He operates under his own sociopathic moral code. He is much like a massive neutron star ripping through a solar system. While he's an implacable and unstoppable force of nature, his mere passage through a community can cause violent havoc and consternation in the lives of people he interacts with. And this penultimate episode in the Parker saga is no exception.

The ending of book 22 (Nobody Runs Forever) was a cliffhanger: after a botched armored car robbery, Parker was on the lam in upstate New York, being pursued up a hill by cops and dogs.

As this book opens, he's "rescued" by Tom Lindahl, a loner and loser. (How much of a loser? He owns a parrot that doesn't talk. Until…) Lindahl was fired from the local racetrack years ago after a futile attempt at whistleblowing the corrupt practices there. He sees Parker as a possible accomplice in his revenge, as he's been nurturing a scheme to liberate piles of cash from the track. With the law so close, Parker doesn't have a lot of options. So he gets drawn into Lindahl's scheme.

Last Modified 2012-09-30 9:28 AM EST

Touch of Evil

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This movie is enjoyable if you approach it in a film-student mode: looking for techniques, interesting performances, behind-the-scenes trivia, etc. There's the famous uncut opening scene. A hey-isn't-that cameo by Joseph Cotten. Zsa Zsa Gabor! Marlene Dietrich! A really weird performance by Dennis Weaver! Charleton Heston plays a Mexican detective! Orson Welles is fat and sweaty! Overlapping dialogue!

Considered as a plain old movie, it's just OK.

It's set in a town straddling the US-Mexico border; one fateful night, a time bomb is placed in a car carrying a rich old American and his girlfriend-for-the-night. It crosses from Mexico into the US, passes nearby Mike Vargas (Mr. Heston) and his new bride Susie (Janet Leigh), and blows up.

Whodunit? Even though we eventually find out, that's not the main plot. Orson Welles plays Hank Quinlan, a cop who has become accustomed to doing his job using all kinds of foul play: coerced confessions, planted evidence, perjury, etc. Vargas becomes more interested in pursuing Quinlan than in nailing the mad bomber.

One funny thing I noticed: Dennis Weaver's character has a number of lines of the form: "If they think X, they got another think coming." The subtitler diligently records every one as "…got another thing coming." A common blunder.

Last Modified 2012-09-30 9:29 AM EST