The Steel Hit, by Richard Stark
by Kirk Lake
Amongst a lot of other stuff, I’ve spent twenty odd (and some decidedly odd) years selling and buying used books in one of London’s most infamous second-hand bookstores. Much as I love books, I’ve never really been a collector. My thoughts are that books need to keep moving from reader to reader. They certainly don’t need to sit around in piles at my house. Once I’ve read them I pass them on. I have very rarely regretted selling or giving away any of them. If I feel the need to read them again, most times they turn up in the end. The only exception is the set of 1970s Coronet Stark paperbacks I once owned. These were the editions with the metallic look covers and die-cut bullet holes designed by Raymond Hawkey. Simple. Stark. Effective. As stripped to the bone as Westlake’s prose. The Steel Hit is pictured but they are all great.
Except for the recent Quercus editions with the banal photo-library covers (which sadly seem to be the default setting for most crime book cover designers these days) the Stark books seem to have been well served by cover artists over the years. Check the excellent cover gallery at The Violent World of Parker to see what I mean and, if you are so inclined, check the ongoing comic adaptations by Darwyn Cooke. As handsome a series of graphic novels as you’re likely to find. The Coronet editions were pretty common about a decade ago. These days you hardly ever see them. Like Parker tends to do at the end of the novels, they have seemingly gone to ground.
Kirk Lake is a writer and musician. His first novel, the cult neo-noir Never Hit The Ground was published in 1997. His new novel Mickey The Mimic is published in July. He has written the screenplays for the kitchen-sink sci-fi feature film Piercing Brightness (2013) and the BFI commissioned art film Radio Mania (2009). He released a series of albums and EPs throughout the 1990s and 2000s including The Black Lights and London Is Swinging By His Neck. He makes his acting debut as “the archivist” alongside Nick Cave in the forthcoming hybrid docu-drama 20,000 Days on Earth (2014). For more information follow @kirklake