Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hand-off Play

I’m not surprised by this news from Publishers Weekly:
In a deal cut by Robert B. Parker’s estate, Penguin’s Putnam imprint will continue to publish two of the author’s most popular series--Spenser and Jesse Stone--under the authorship of writers Michael Brandman and Ace Atkins. The Spenser series debuted in 1974 and is made up of 39 novels; the Jesse Stone series began in 1997 and [comprises] nine novels.

Brandman produced (and wrote the screenplays) for the TV movies based on Parker’s small-town Massachusetts detective, Jesse Stone, that appeared on CBS and starred Tom Selleck in the title role. The first Jesse Stone novel Brandman will release is
Robert B. Parker’s Killing the Blues, which is scheduled for September 13, 2011. Atkins, a tested crime author at Putnam with books like White Shadow and Infamous to his credit, will release the first new Parker-branded Spenser novel in Spring 2012. Parker’s longtime editor, Chris Pepe, will be overseeing both projects.

Parker, who wrote over 60 novels, died in January 2010.
While I don’t know Michael Brandman, I am familiar with the work of Ace Atkins (who was interviewed by Megan Abbott for this page in association with his 2009 novel, Devil’s Garden).

From a business perspective, I can certainly understand Penguin wanting to continue the Stone and Spenser series indefinitely--they’ve become cash cows: many readers buy new installments every year simply because they’ve gotten in the habit. But Spenser, especially, has had a long enough run. And though I’m sure Atkins can do a serviceable job concocting new tales about that Boston gumshoe, his girlfriend, Susan Silverman, and the ever-ominous Hawk, I’ll be surprised to see him make any substantial shifts in the series’ all-too-familiar format. (Fans would likely cry “foul” if he thought of killing off Ms. Silverman, for instance.) So one has to ask: Why can’t we just be happy with Parker’s legacy as it is, and not try to artificially extend it?

In the meantime, I’m still looking forward to seeing Parker’s last real Spenser novel, Sixkill, which is due out from Putnam on May 3.

(Hat tip to Omnimystery News.)

READ MORE:Spenser, Continued,” by Bill Crider (Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine).


Kevin Burton Smith said...

WTF??? Couldn't they at least wait until the body was cool? I mean, shit, Parker hasn't even been dead two years. And the final Spenser, SIXKILL, isn't even out yet... but the worst insult? There's nothing about Atkins' writing that's particularly Spenserish.

Like him or not, Parker's was a unique and influential voice in crime fiction, and this just reeks of opportunism and greed. There's a very bad taste in my mouth right now.

Hawk? We have a job for you.

Anonymous said...

I will have to agree. Please let the Spenser series end.

I've seen publishers do this in the past--most notably the Lawrence Sanders' McNalley Series. The Vincent Lardo book just don't hold a candle to Mr. Sanders' work.

Anonymous said...

Spenser and Hawk must be what--mid 70s by now? Time for them to retire.

Barbara said...

I agree. Parker left a great legacy and I dearly loved Spenser and Hawk, but leave them alone. It's a travesty for someone else to pick up the series. I won't buy them.

Kevin Burton Smith said...

I haven't heard many people cheering this decision. A lot of grumbling, though.

Spenser fans in particular -- presumably the intended audience -- are not jumping for joy. Will Atkins really be the new Parker -- or just the new Vince Lardo?