Miskatonic University Press

Dirty Money


The final lines of Dirty Money (2008), the twenty-fourth and last of the Parker novels by Donald E. Westlake writing as Richard Stark:

“If you leave me here,” the guy on the floor said, “he’ll kill me tomorrow morning.”

Parker looked at him. “So you’ve still got tonight,” he said.

Cover of Dirty Money
Cover of Dirty Money

There’s definitely more of Westlake in Stark in this last batch of novels, from Comeback (1997) to Dirty Money. The idiot white supremacists in Flashfire (2000) that save Parker—who’s just been shot clean through the chest—are definitely Westlake; they could even have appeared in a Dortmunder novel, though there they’d have been developed more, while here they’re just in one chapter.

Parker’s life is getting out of control in the last three novels. Too many people know who he is and where he lives. His long-established fake identities are burned and he needs to trust a gangster to help him get new papers. His woman Claire is involved in his activities, even acting as driver, and he tells her what is going on. This isn’t the Parker we knew, but then things are falling apart. Still, like always, he remains calm, moves fast, and is always pushing forward to what’s next, be it getting the money or dealing with people causing problems.

Westlake died on New Year’s Eve at the end of 2008. Who knows what he would have done next with Parker? Dirty Money is a great open-ended unintentional finish: some of his problems are over, but not all. Maybe he’d take a vacation with Claire waiting for his new ID. Then what? Another heist. More trouble. Parker sitting silently in a dark room, waiting.