Garry Disher’s Wyatt is to Australia as Richard Stark’s Parker is to America. He’s a man who makes his living by stealing payrolls, robbing banks, wherever a large cache of money might be lodged, he’s game to take it. He does a few jobs a year and is very careful about who he works with, planning each job carefully before making a move. And is willing to abandon it all if anything odd pops up. He maintains a safe home in a quiet country town where the neighbors know him as Mr. Warner, a stockbroker, a man who lives alone and tends a small garden when not away working.
He’d gotten his start in the service in Viet Nam, stealing small payrolls, gaining experience, building up to his present status.
And his life is about to be turned upside down.
Wyatt is doing an insurance job for a man named Ivan Younger. It’s supposed to be a simple job. Get in, pick up the pieces on the list, nothing else, then beat it. Younger had foisted his kid brother, Sugarfoot, off on Wyatt so that the boy could get some “experience.” Wyatt didn’t like it, but finally goes along.
The job goes bad when Sugarfoot doesn’t follow orders, resulting in the death of an elderly housekeeper after he smacked her around a bit and after Wyatt had calmed her fears. Wyatt abandons everything and returns to Ivan’s lair, demanding his fee. Worse, the kid sneaked out a valuable small painting that will get them hung because a murder charge now hangs around the job. He burns the art work, gaining the enmity of the Younger brothers. Not to mention no fee.
Needing funds now, he gets hooked up with a woman named Anna Reid, a lawyer who knows of a large chunk of cash in her partner’s safe, the kickback, that she wants help stealing. He won’t dare tell the cops about it. So he sets out planning the robbery.
He’s being set up and has an angry punk named Sugarfoot stalking him, mad because he was humiliated, and wanting revenge. And there’s also the payers of the kickback to be dealt with.
Wyatt’s safe home is gone, as is the identity and funds associated with that name.
He has his eye on an armored car that brings a cash payroll each week to a pipeline construction site in an isolated area, a payroll for $1,500 a week jobs. With that in mind, he’s taken a job there where he could watch the routine of the car and the armed guards as he plans the heist. Things go awry when Immigration raids the site and he has to make a quick escape because his papers won’t stand up to much inquiry.
Unwilling to give up the job, he comes at it from a different angle, making a new plan and lining up a crew to help. Things explode on the day of the job because of two things: a second crew hits the job first and the Outfit has a hit man on his trail from the “kickback” job of the first novel.
Wyatt is pissed. He doesn’t like to be crossed, using violence only when necessary. But he won’t hesitate when there’s a need.
The last few months hadn’t been kind to Wyatt. His life as “Mr. Honest John” was gone and his last big job had busted. The cops were looking for him, not to mention an Outfit hit man. And now there was a third party after him. Two guys working for that party burst into his motel room and, though he eventually prevailed, one of them escaped alive, taking his share of his latest heist.
The third man is a PI named Stolle, whose specialty is finding hard-to-find people. He;s been hired by a client in Brisbane to locate Wyatt and bring him to them. It’s a woman who crossed him in the past and tried to kill him. He made the mistake of letting her go.
Now she wants his help on a bank job. Two million in cash. It seems to be an easy take. But Stolle wants in as well, there’s a bank manager with a gambling habit who owes money to the wrong people, crooked cops, and a couple of punks that want to move up in the profession.
Wyatt is angry and broke. He decides he wants his money back from the Mesics, a small time crime family that intercepted his armored car heist in Paydirt. He has one problem that must be dealt with first though. The Outfit still has a $40,000 contract on his head.
To demonstrate his power to the crime family, he gets an associate and the pair embark on a series of hits on Outfit businesses, taking down a half dozen, announcing his name in each case, before setting up a meeting with Kepler, the boss, and making a deal to kill the contract. He’ll give them the Mesics after taking back “his” money. They’d been wanting to expand their operations into Mesic territory, Melbourne, and now is the perfect time to strike. The family is in turmoil, as old man Mesic has died and his two sons are quarreling over what direction to take the family business. One wants to continue as before, the other wants to ally with an American mafia family in the casino business.
Complicating things are two crooked cops, independent of each other, wanting part of the pie and an Outfit hit woman who wants Wyatt’s head.
There’s even a nod a to the Parker novels here, besides the Outfit, with a minor character named Charles Willis.
PORT VILA BLUES(1995)
It was supposed to be a quick job, A politician away from her home. Get in, crack the safe, and take the $50,000 cash bribe. She wouldn’t dare report it. There was more in the safe, though, a diamond studded Tiffany brooch, and Wyatt takes it. When he tries to fence it, a chain reaction is set off. The brooch had come from a bank heist six months before by a bunch called the “Magnetic Drill Gang,” taken from a safe deposit box.
While in a restaurant to hand off the brooch to a female fence for a $25,000 reward from the insurance company, a drug addict came in to rob the place. When he turned toward Wyatt and the fence, Wyatt smelled a rat. The “addict” carried a .357 Magnum.
Someone wanted him dead.
Besides the bribed politician, Wyatt has to deal with a couple of crooked cops, a magistrate involved in an elaborate theft ring, an undercover cop, and a fabulous stolen jewelry lot, the Asahi Collection, that Wyatt decides to claim as his own. All he has to do is survive all the obstacles in his path.
Wyatt runs into a nephew, Raymond, his brother’s boy, that he hasn’t seen in fifteen years. The young man has been forging his own career as the “Bush Bandit,” a man who specializes in rural banks, inspired by his uncle. The older man sees a young Wyatt in the boy and takes him as a partner in the theft of an art collection from a museum.
As he gets to know his nephew better, Wyatt begins to see a different side. A braggart who likes to keep trophies of his various jobs, and dismisses problems too easily. Just the sort of thing that can land one in the gaol.
There’s also old enemies in the mix. One that Raymond broke out of jail just before he ran into Wyatt, an undercover policewoman he’d had a relationship with and drugged to escape with the Asahi collection, leaving her suspect as his partner. She wants his head. The brother of a partner killed on their last job that blames Wyatt and now also wants his head.
All a day in the life of a career criminal.
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There’s a seventh novel out this year, WYATT. but I haven’t been able to turn up a copy yet.