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Stark    by Edward Bunker order for
by Edward Bunker
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Written in the late 1960s and discovered after the author's death in 2005, Stark is an early work from the pen of Edward Bunker - ex-con (with eighteen years of prison), author, and legend. Exhilarating, blunt, and raw, Stark is the story of twenty-eight year old Ernie Stark - two-bit hustler, twice-a-day heroin user, and repeat offender with more than five years of his life spent in the slammer.

When the action begins in southern California in 1962, Stark - because of a parole violation - has been turned into a reluctant informer for the police department. Stark must discover the identity of a big-time drug distributor (known only as The Man), and he must betray Momo Mendoza (Stark's so-called friend and the source of Stark's daily heroin fixes) and Momo's humorless sidekick (the homicidal mute known only as Dummy).

In Stark's dangerous adventure (while working under increasing pressure to identify the drug supplier for the bothersome, unscrupulous cop, Detective Lieutenant Patrick Crowley), the jammed up ex-con finds himself involved in all manner of harrowing problems - the excessively amorous and desperately duplicitous Dorrie Williams (Momo's apparent girlfriend), rival drug dealers from Mexico (with brutal and murderous tendencies), and The Man (a surprisingly resourceful and dangerous individual whose real identity impresses even Stark).

Throughout all of his exploits, though, the resilient and street-smart Stark keeps his eyes on the prize (and at the same time, above all, hopes to keep himself alive and well and out of prison) by focusing on a single, tongue-in-cheek guiding principle: 'What would Humphrey Bogart do?'

Stark is a razor-sharp fictional world dominated by society's outcasts and violent criminals, and the author's fiercely unadorned prose and sizzling dialogue propels the violent and addictive story along at a thrilling, compelling pace. Unique as an early work from an acknowledged master of criminal classics (The Animal Factor, Little Boy Blue, and Dog Eat Dog), Stark is a highly recommended work about criminals, written by an ex-criminal. Don't miss it!

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