Aural Noir Review of Dirty Money by Richard Stark

July 11, 2008
Filed under: Reviews 

Aural Noir - Review

Back in 2005 SFFaudio spun-off a sister site called AuralNoir.com. But it didn’t take. Those who visited loved it, but too few visited. So, what we’re doing now is posting non-Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror, reviews, news, etc, under special headers like the one above. So welcome to our first such. Stick around, we’ll see how the string plays itself out.


Crime Fiction - Dirty Money by Richard StarkDirty Money
By Richard Stark; Read by Stephen Thorne
Audible Download – 5 Hours 12 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Provider: Review copy provided by Audible.com
Published: 2008
Themes: / Crime / Heist / Armored Car / Double-cross / Massachusetts /

Master criminal Parker takes another turn for the worse as he tries to recover loot from a heist gone terribly wrong. Parker and two cohorts stole the assets of a bank in transit, but the police heat was so great they could only escape if they left the money behind. Now Parker and his associates plot to reclaim the loot, which they hid in the choir loft of an unused country church. As they implement the plan, people on both sides of the law use the forces at their command to stop Parker and grab the goods for themselves. Though Parker’s new getaway van is an old Ford Econoline with “Holy Redeemer Choir” on its doors, his gang is anything but holy, and Parker will do whatever it takes to redeem his prize, no matter who gets hurt in the process.

Richard Stark is the alternate personality of crime writer Donald E. Westlake. I’m a giant fan of both guys, Westlake seems to write instinctually, sometimes it all comes together sometimes it doesn’t. Dirty Money doesn’t blow my socks off. But, it is the latest installment in Stark’s long running (more than 20) series of novels about the hardened heister known only as “Parker.” What seems to have gone wrong is that Dirty Money is only a small part of the overall-arc of the last three books (the previous being Nobody Runs Forever and Ask The Parrot) – in previous decades all the action would have been crammed into one novel. There is value here, for long time Parker readers, but not enough, and it definitely isn’t the place to start reading the series.

The best place to start with Stark is his first book. In 1962 the world of paperback books was introduced to a novel about a professional thief who could do something all the previous fictional thieves could never seem to do – that is, actually get away with crime. Getting back to Dirty Money though, the plot starts as a continuation of the scene following mere moments after the closing sentence of the previous novel, Ask The Parrot. It seems Parker is still chasing the loot from the armored car heist he pulled off with a few other thugs two novels back (Nobody Runs Forever). In the back-story the crew had had to dump the money in an abandoned church so as to flee the area without carrying incriminating evidence. Now, having escaped the encircling noose, Parker’s putting his neck right back into it, but using his semi-straight common-law wife, Clarie, as his cover. As always, Parker’s not the only man after the swag though – his former partners are on the prowl, as are the cops, both local and federal. Everyone is intent on recovering the dirty money. findin. Like in every Parker tale, nothing goes quite according to plan. The twists and turns in Dirty Money, sadly, are unusually subdued. There are a lot of characters poking their noses into Parker’s business, but none of them seem quite up to the challenge of really making Parker’s life the miserable one we all like to see.

Stephen Thorne, the narrator, doesn’t project the voice of Parker all that well either. Parker seems too sedate, too settled – he’s seems almost comfortable with being a tourist in a Massachusetts autumn. Parker as a “leaf peeper” could almost be comedic, but it doesn’t quite come off that way – it comes off weak. And from what we know of him he aint weak. I still recall the kinetic menace of my favorite Parker narrator – Michael Kramer’s readings of the first dozen or so audiobooks done for Books On Tape projected danger in the most flip of lines – for me he’ll probably always be the voice of Parker. Still, knowing that Stark and Westlake novels are hit and miss affairs, I’ll be back, looking for more adventures should they come.

A note about this edition. Though originally released by BBC Audiobooks America, our review copy of Dirty Money came via Audible.com. Normally we don’t mention prices on SFFaudio, but I’m going to break that code here just for a moment. $10.48 is how much Dirty Money costs from Audible.com. The price for the CD edition on the BBC Audiobooks America website is $64.95. Normally, that wouldn’t be a big issue, I could just borrow a copy from the local library. Unfortunately, there isn’t one CD version of Dirty Money in all of Canada! Audible is definitely the deal here.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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