Apparently, Richard Stark used the Grofield novels to experiment with different types of stories. Whereas his justly famous Parker novels all follow exactly the same brutal format, these spin-offs were looser and more playful. A way for Stark to try new things and have fun doing it.
Sharing pretty much the same opening chapter as the Parker novel, SLAYGROUND, this whacks his cohort, Grofield (an actor who moonlights as an armed robber) swiftly into over-the-top international espionage which aims for James Bond, but misses a lot more than it succeeds.
Part of the problem is the apathetic leading man. By having someone who is so flippant and uncaring at the centre, it immediately lowers the stakes. If he doesn’t really care, why should us readers? Furthermore, the fact that he doesn’t want to be there, just lets the plot happen around him. He’s a passive, and more than a little irritating, leading man.
The globe-trotting gets no further than Canada and the equivalent of the Bond girl is all over the place characterisation wise. I can appreciate it as an experiment, and it holds the attention well enough to not be a waste of time. But when I was reading it, I couldn’t help wishing I was reading real James Bond or actual Parker, either of which would be preferable.
My debut novel, THE WANNABES – which has been out of print for a little while – is now available for free! A supernatural thriller of beautiful actresses and deadly ambition in London town, it’s well worth your time. You can get your copy here!