“Donald Trump never fit in here” – Richard Stark on Trump, Mar-a-Lago and Palm Beach
'Donald Trump never fit in here' ... 'I should be pleased Mr Trump took over Mar-a-Lago,' Lesley said, 'I think we should all be pleased, because we didn't want it to turn into Miss Havisham's wedding cake out there, but to be honest with you, I think a place must be just a little déclassé if Donald Trump has even heard of it.'
I’ve been reading Richard Stark’s Parker novels for at least 30 years and re-read at least a few every year. Between 1962 and 1974 Stark (one of prolific author Donald E. Westlake‘s many pseudonyms) wrote sixteen Parker stories, giving him a break for 23 years or so until the release of Comeback in 1997, followed three years later by Flashfire, which I’ve just re-read over the holiday break.
Back in 2000 Donald Trump was like many of Stark’s characters, a deeply-flawed grifter with money and women problems.
The following is from the 2007 Quercus paperback edition of Flashfire and relates an interaction between local Palm Beach realtor Lesley and Parker as she is driving him around looking at properties he might want to rent.
Style and community were apparently big words around here, but both words, when they were distilled, came down to money.
But not just any money, not for those who wanted to ‘belong’ – another big word that also meant money. Inherited money was best which almost went without saying, though Lesley did say it, indirectly, more than once. Married money was okay, second best, which was why people here didn’t enquire too much into new spouses’ pasts. Earned money was barely acceptable, and then only if it wasn’t being earned anymore.
‘Donald Trump never fit in here,’ Lesley said, having pointed out Mar-a-Lago, which for many years had belonged to Mrs Merriweather Post*, who definitively did fit in here, and which after her death had been for years a white elephant on the market – nobody’s inherited money, no matter how much of it there was, could afford the upkeep of the huge sprawling place – until Trump had grabbed it up, expecting it to be his entrée to Palm Beach, misunderstanding the place, believing Palm Beach was about real estate, like New York, never getting it that Palm Beach was about money you hadn’t earned.
‘I should be pleased Mr Trump took over Mar-a-Lago,’ Lesley said, ‘I think we should all be pleased, because we didn’t want it to turn into Miss Havisham’s wedding cake out there, but to be honest with you, I think a place must be just a little déclassé if Donald Trump has even heard of it.’
So who is Parker? There is no end of on-line sites that will provide insights into Donald E. Westlake and his sidekick Richard Stark. Parker, for mine at least, was Westlake/Stark’s best character among many. The following is from the University of Chicago Press webpage.
Taciturn and viciously competent, he can seem an inscrutable character whose motivations are not always clear or in line with many readers’ sensibilities. But in many ways, Parker is a very simple man: if there’s a job to do, he does it, and he doesn’t like anything that distracts from that. Small talk, sex, greed, haste, sloppiness—all are problems when there’s work to be done, and Parker’s ready to deal with them however he has to. Nothing brings down the law like violence, so killing is always a last resort. But when it’s the only answer, Parker doesn’t flinch. He’s got the determination of Bruce Willis in Die Hard, the lightning reflexes of Statham in The Transporter, the planning chops of Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, and the relentlessness of the Terminator.
Donald E. Westlake passed away on New Years Eve in 2002.
Mrs Merriweather Post was the daughter of C. W. Post of the Post breakfast cereal fortune and founder of the town of Post, west Texas that I visited and wrote about in 2013. Mrs Post lived in Texas from 1888-1891 and had a part with her father in locating colony there in 1906. A leading philanthropist in arts and humanities. Benefactress, C. W. Post College, Long Island University; founder “Music for Young America.” Recipient of 30 citations for service, 3 honorary degrees, 6 foreign decorations. A woman endowed with true virtues of generosity and compassion.
You can read more about Mrs Merriweather Post and Mar-a-Lago in this profile from the Palm Beach Daily Post.