‘The Hunter’: Darwyn Cooke and Donald Westlake pull off the perfect crime

Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter Cover by Darwyn Cooke
Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter Cover by Darwyn Cooke

Source: Los Angeles Times

Article by Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times.

Even when the movies ended up bad — and they usually did — crime novelist Donald E. Westlake never had a problem taking Hollywood money for his ideas. But with his signature creation, the ruthless career criminal known simply as Parker, Westlake insisted that the names be changed to protect the guilty.

Westlake, who died at age 75 this past New Year’s Eve, saw seven movies made from his Parker novels (which were all published under his pseudonym Richard Stark), but in each film the main character’s name was changed; even when Lee Marvin, Robert Duvall or Mel Gibson was in the role, Westlake wouldn’t entrust his favorite brand name to anyone else. That changed, though, in the final months of Westlake’s life in an unexpected way that had nothing to do with Hollywood.

A Nova Scotia-based illustrator named Darwyn Cooke and an San Diego book editor named Scott Dunbier persuaded the aging author that the ideal visual medium for his terse, bare-knuckled tales of mayhem was the graphic novel. And, after Westlake saw Cooke’s spare and stylized artwork (think somewhere between the vintage-cool of “Mad Men” and the storytelling flair of Milton Caniff’s “Steve Canyon” comic strips), he enthusiastically agreed. The result hit shelves last week, the 144-page graphic novel “The Hunter” (IDW Publishing, $24.99 hardcover), a meticulously faithful adaptation of the 1962 novel of the same name that introduced the scowling Parker.