The Parker novels in Time Out Chicago
This week’s edition of Time Out Chicago features a great story on the press’s re-publication of the Parker novels—a series of crime novels by Donald Westlake (aka Richard Stark) that follow the exploits of a master thief known only as Parker.
Jonathan Messinger talked to the press’s publicity manager, Levi Stahl, and Maggie Hivnor, the press’s reprints editor, about why they decided to get Stark’s classics back in print:
Over the more than 40 years that Richard Stark has been writing his Parker noir novels, heavyweights have lined up to praise his work: Booker-winner John Banville called the books “among the most poised and polished fictions… of any time,” and Guggenheim fellow Luc Sante called them “a brilliant invention.” And yet, if you wanted to quantify how much these champions have done for their pet cause, neither of them would stack up to someone you’ve likely never heard of: Levi Stahl, publicity manager at the University of Chicago Press.
Stahl, a rabid mystery fan, had read praise of the Parker novels but only recently decided to check them out.… “Last fall, I tried one,” he says. “They’re like candy. I read one, and suddenly I’m reading a dozen. I read all of the ones I could get my hands on, but the early ones were out of print and surprisingly hard to find.”
Stahl went to Maggie Hivnor, the press’s paperback-reprints editor, and suggested they get the books back into print.… Now, a year later, University of Chicago Press has rereleased the first three Parker novels, The Hunter, The Man With the Getaway Face and The Outfit.…
What’s most interesting, perhaps, is that the University of Chicago Press has resurrected these classics of the genre.… Westlake is one of crime writing’s most revered practitioners, and yet his important—and popular—work had fallen out of print. We tried to talk to Hivnor about the role of a university press in serving the public good, acting on an archival instinct to keep the Parker novels on the shelves. But she was having none of it.
“To be honest, we’re doing them because they’re so fun,” she says, and echoes Stahl. “Once you read one, you want to read a dozen.”