THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH falls into the same class as Richard Stark’s Parker. It was published the same year as THE HUNTER(not sure which was first), but didn’t become a series character until years later. In the 1962 edition, his name was Chet Arnold and Earl Drake was a cover name. When he returns in ONE ENDLESS HOUR, he’s known strictly as Earl Drake.
Drake has been described as a “callous and completely amoral character” by Anthony Boucher.
The bank robbery went south fast. Earl and his partner Bunny had to kill a guard that got brave. When they exited the bank, they found the kid they’d recruited as a driver had panicked when the shooting started and got out of the car to open the passenger doors for them. He ends up getting shot by another guard, Earl takes one in the shoulder as he kills that guard and dives in the back seat while Bunny takes the wheel.
Once they escape, plans have to change. Earl needs to get the wound taken care of and sends Bunny on ahead to Florida after taking a few bundles of twenties. He’s to send a thousand a week to general delivery to Earl Drake(he has ID in that name).
Then Earl goes to ground and gets the wound taken care of by a doctor he makes sure is alone, then kills him, making it look like a robbery.
Two weeks later, when he’s recovered a bit, he picks up two envelopes with the cash. The next week a third arrives. The fourth week, no envelope, just a telegram advising a bit of trouble, “Will call when it’s safe.”
Earl knew then that something was wrong. The telegram wasn’t sent by Bunny. You see, Bunny was a mute, from an accident that took out his vocal cords.
He takes off for Florida to find Bunny and the money and whoever was responsible for the likely death of Bunny.
The early part of the novel sketches some early events that show the kind of man Earl Drake would become. A fat kid at a pet show enticed his bulldog to kill ten year old Earl’s pet kitten. Earl beat the crap out of him every day, pursuing him until he caught him. He couldn’t be stopped.
His father beat him. It didn’t work. The father of the fat kid bought him another kitten. It didn’t work. He returned it to the store and politely told the owner to return the money to the father. He continued to beat the kid.
The family eventually moved out of town.
His only soft spot is for animals.
This is the only book in the series I own and have read. Research shows after a few books, the character began to soften, eventually becoming a spy.
The first few seem worth seeking out though.
For more Forgotten Books, go see Patti Abbott over at her blog, Pattinase.