In the 1950’s and 60’s I loved to read paperbacks because they were short. I could read one in an evening. Whether it was a book like Richard Stark’s The Score, something by Erle Stanley Gardner, or an Ed McBain, I usually finished it in one or two sittings.
Then paperback books became expensive. Publishers seemed to think they needed to offer you more pages for your money and most mystery novels went longer.
Stark’s The Score is the story of Parker and eleven others who shut down a town. They plan to rob payroll from a local factory and then to blow their way into safes in the town’s banks and savings and loan companies.
The plan goes flawlessly until human nature intervenes.
Stark writes the book in sections, one for planning the heist, one for acquiring the things needed to do the job, etc. It all goes flawlessly. We see their meticulous planning in detail.
All the time, we know something has to go wrong, and at one point I thought I saw it happening. But I was wrong. Finally, the whole story came back to human nature.
As most mystery readers know, Richard Stark is one of Donald E. Westlake’s pseudonyms. Like other writers in the 50s and 60s, Westlake thought he needed to use a pseudonym so as not to water down his brand. He thought too many books by Donald E. Westlake might make it seem like he was churning them out.
Tell that to James Patterson or J.D. Robb today!
I enjoyed reading this book. I did read it in one sitting, just as in the old days. It was meticulously written as all Westlake stories are. And, as the events worked out, it all came down to our human inability to let things go perfectly.
Even among crooks, it is what they are as human beings that ends up getting them killed or caught.