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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Robert B. Parker

Yesterday, we lost one of the pillars of detective fiction, Robert B. Parker. I posted my thoughts on his passing on Make Mine Mystery and don't have much to add to what I said there. One of the points I made, however, is that Parker blew life into a fading genre with his Spenser series. Spenser is a tough guy, romantic who is in a long-term, committed relationship with Susan Silverman. This was an innovation in the genre, and even though many readers hate Susan, and even though their relationship is sometimes overly cute, it changed detective fiction forever. No longer are detectives loners, unable to commit to anyone, hopping from bed to bed with a succession of empty-headed women. Now we find them in complex relationships with strong intelligent men and women.

Spenser met Susan in 1974's God Save the Child. It probably didn't seem like much at the time, but 36 years later, the romance is still strong.

Here is the scene that started it all.

"Why don't you take off your coat?" she said.
"Well, it's supposed to make me look taller," I said.
"Sitting down?"
"No, I guess not," I said and stood up and took it off.
"I don't think you need to look taller, Mr. Spenser," she said. When she smiled, the color of her face seemed to heighten. "How tall are you?"
"Six one," I said.
"Really? That's surprising. I must admit you don't look that tall."
"Even with the raincoat?" I said.
"Even with that," she said. "You're so wide. Do you work with weights?"
"Yeah, some. How could you tell? Your husband lift?"
"Ex-husband," she said. "Yes, he played tackle for Harvard and stayed with the weights afterward."

God Save the Child. Robert B. Parker

Robert B. Parker was a master of stories that are always readable and entertaining. He died at his desk. We'll miss him.


  1. Book Dilettante said...

    I'm not familiar with his work, but my husand is a fan of his and was sad to hear about his death.

  2. Arthur B. Burnett said...

    Greetings from Falls County,
    I first came across Spencer on the TV show and enjoyed it. Recently I have been getting his audio books. I enjoy the way he built a story. There was a quality to his characters that made the reader feel these were people they had met.

  3. Mark Troy said...

    Although I liked Robert Urich as Dan Tanna in Vega$, I didn't care for him as Spenser. On the other hand, Avery Brooks nailed Hawk. Joe Montegna captures Spenser's voice on the audio books, but I can't see him in the role of Spenser.

    In my opinion, the best Spenser stories were written before A Catskill Eagle. Most people hate A Catskill Eagle, but I really liked it. After that, the series seemed to go flat, but still entertaining.

  4. Arthur B. Burnett said...

    The TV show was my first introduction to Spencer so I tend to picture Robert Urich as the character, much as to me Roger Moore will always be The Saint and never seems right as James Bond.
    Having said that, there is a quality to the quality to the books the TV show couldn't match.

  5. Helen Ginger said...

    I like that scene. It's simple, but says a lot about the two characters. It's sad to hear Parker died. Somehow, sitting at your desk doesn't seem such a bad way to go.

    Straight From Hel