Today's short essay topic: describe how you would plan and execute a robbery of a casino ship in the middle of the Hudson river. You've got to get and getaway with over $300,000 in cold, hard cash. Oh, and security measures will not allow any guns to be brought on board. Ready? Go.
That's the problem facing super thief Parker in BACKFLASH (1999), number 18 in the series of crime novels by Richard Stark (in reality Donald Westlake). I finished reading this one yesterday evening. It's one of those books where once I got to a certain point in the narrative, I absolutely could not stop reading. I inhaled the last one hundred pages in one sitting and believe me, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.
The book is divided into three acts. The first focuses on the planning of the heist and the recruitment of the players in the caper. The middle third is the actual execution of the robbery. It's an ingenious plan involving a fake politician and his two bodyguards, an invalid girl in a wheelchair and her chauffeur. The final act is the getaway which, in the tradition of all great caper stories, goes wrong when various outside players decide to cut themselves in for a piece of the action. It's up to Parker to tie up all of these loose ends and as he does so the body count starts mounting.
BACKFLASH is wonderfully entertaining, a fast paced, gritty crime thriller in which we're solidly on the side of the bad guys. We want Parker and his gang to be successful and get away with the money but Stark has to put them through the wringer before it's all over. Highest recommendation.