Sunday, January 24, 2010

Looking for Robert B. Parker: A Fond Farewell to the Man Who Saved P.I. Fiction, Part I

I just always assumed that detective novelist Robert B. Parker was immortal, like some kind of literary Highlander.

It was actually easy to think so. Writing three books a year, he always seemed to have a new one out or on its way. It became a running joke when I would make my excursions to the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego, asking whether there was a fresh Parker novel to be had. (There usually was, though not as often as there was a new James Patterson product available.) It makes complete sense to me, that when he passed away suddenly on January 18 Parker was sitting at his desk, working on another book.

Look, I don’t want to bore you with the details of his upbringing, all that stuff about Parker having been a working-class kid in Massachusetts who grew up to be an academic; there are lots of obituaries to give you that. Instead, I want to talk about why he was a great writer and the most influential crime novelist of the last four decades (other than Elmore Leonard, that is).

It’s my pet theory (so disagree, if you like) that Parker’s perfectly deserved success actually hurt his status in the crime-fiction community. Our tribe loves the little guy, and when you get a bunch of well-read fans together, the conversation inevitably leads to who everybody else should be reading (the more obscure the better), because word of mouth is the best kind of advertising. As an author in this genre, you can make it big, and nobody will begrudge your achievements; but if you get too big, if--heaven forbid--somebody outside of the crime-fiction-loving community should recognize your name, or your books should become easily available at airport bookstores ... well, then you risk censure. It’s a wonder that we haven’t turned on Michael Connelly, or that there hasn’t already been a Raymond Chandler backlash.

Go ahead and criticize Parker for his prolificacy, or the thinness of some of his tales. It doesn’t alter the fact that without him, private-eye fiction would be nowhere near as popular as it is today.

Dashiell Hammett and Chandler gave the genre its strongest foundations. Ross Macdonald built upon those in the 1960s and ’70s. But Hammett stopped writing novels way back in 1934, Chandler died in 1959, and Macdonald ceased penning his books about Los Angeles gumshoe Lew Archer in the mid-’70s, brought low by Alzheimer’s disease before perishing himself in 1983. Plenty of critics at the time were talking about how detective fiction was on its last legs, burdened by clichés.

Enter Parker, who was a professor at Northeastern University in Boston before he turned to composing detective stories. He’d written his Ph.D. dissertation on Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald, so he knew the field well, and loved that Holy Trinity of genre fathers. He wanted to write something on the order of the books they’d produced. But with his own modifications, of course; and with a private investigator in the lead who had other things on his mind than killing criminals and bedding femmes fatales. Given Parker’s literary background, it was hardly surprising that he would name his first fictional Beantown private eye after a 16th-century English poet. Ex-state trooper, boxer, weightlifter, and gourmet cook Spenser (introduced in 1973’s The Godwulf Manuscript) often reeled off poetic passages to folks who assumed he was just a muscle-bound thug. There are dozens of literary references in Parker’s books.

Parker didn’t save the P.I. subgenre by writing like the Holy Trinity (for the most part, he didn’t). He saved it by being an innovator. Up until the mid-’70s, the private dick of fiction was a cynical loner, his life devoted to whatever case had just come his way. The Big Three, who’d created and shaped this formula, were great wordsmiths--but how much did readers ever find out about the personal lives of their protagonists? Not a whole hell of a lot. Parker was instrumental in setting new standards. Spenser had friends, a huge group of them, all memorable. He watched baseball and the fights, drank beer and Scotch, and appreciated fine food. As dictated by Chandler in his 1944 essay, “The Simple Art of Murder,” Spenser was a common man, but an unusual one, with a rigid code of ethics. Parker gave his man a real-seeming life. We were invited to see inside Spenser’s apartment. We spent intimate hours with him and his lover, high-school guidance counselor-turned-psychologist Susan Silverman. (The fact that Parker wrote his Spenser novels from the sleuth’s first-person point of view made getting inside Spenser’s head, understanding his behavior, easier.) And we got to hang out with the detective and his African-American leg-breaker of a sidekick, Hawk, as they worked out, worked investigations, and just bullshitted like good friends. Indeed, it was those quieter moments that made Parker famous. His dialogue sang. The man was funny. In this excerpt from Ceremony (1982), Spenser wheels by to pick up Hawk:
I pulled the MG in beside him at the curb and he got in.

“This thing ain’t big enough for either one of us,” he said. “When you getting something that fits?”

“It goes with my preppy look,” I said. “You get one of these, they let you drive around the north shore, watch polo, anything you want.”

I let the clutch in and turned right on Dartmouth.

“How you get laid in one of these?” Hawk said.

“You just don’t understand preppy,” I said. “I know it’s not your fault. You’re only a couple generations out of the jungle. I realize that. But if you’re preppy you don’t get laid in a car.”

“Where do you get laid if you preppy?”

I sniffed. “One doesn’t,” I said.

“Preppies gonna be outnumbered in a while,” Hawk said.
It doesn’t detract from our intimate association with these two, that we never learn in the books whether “Hawk” is a first name, a last name, or just a nickname. Or what Spenser’s given name might be. (As Wikipedia explains, “Parker and his wife [Joan] had two sons, David and Daniel. Originally, Parker’s character Spenser was to have the first name ‘David,’ but he didn’t want to omit his other son. So Parker removed the first name completely ...”)

Creating Hawk turned out to be a genius move on Parker’s part. Hawk is the total opposite of the conventional detective hero, yet together he and Spenser seem to make up a satisfying whole. Hawk gets away with actions that most gumshoes never could, such as shooting an unarmed, unconscious man in the head. It was part of his character, even if such brutal acts lie outside the legal limits of what conventional detectives might do. The idea that Parker effectively divided his gumshoe into two people--one law-abiding, the other not so much, working side by side--is often not recognized, as readers concentrate on the surface elements of Spenser and Hawk as individuals. Yet they have one of the greatest and most influential friendships in the history of fiction. You can’t hit a P.I. novel with a rock nowadays, without that work featuring some detective’s sociopathic sidekick. Bubba Ragowski, Win Lockwood, Joe Pike--they’re all Hawk’s illegitimate children. Over the years, it’s gotten to the point where such sidekicks have become clichés. Even Parker’s second Boston P.I., Sonya Joan “Sunny” Randall (introduced in 1999’s Family Honor), had to have such a single-monikered associate, the malevolent gay restaurateur, Spike.

Reading Parker’s fiction, it was fairly easy to accept Spenser as a human being. We were in his head all the time, and he could be surprisingly introspective. He didn’t always triumph, either. Sometimes people he was struggling to help died or were hurt. Spenser got hurt, too, more than once. In some books, the best Spenser could do was achieve a Pyrrhic victory. Nonetheless, I loved the optimistic message in Parker’s books: If you lend a hand and do your part, things will be OK. Chandler’s Philip Marlowe was a cynic, without hope for humanity. Hammett’s protagonists could be even worse. Spenser loved people and wanted to help them.

The author was a softy and a romantic (he dedicated all of his books to wife Joan and their sons). His best-known protagonist, while noticeably bigger and braver than his creator, shared those same characteristics. In Spenser’s eyes, Susan Silverman was everything good and important in the world, and God help you if you hurt her, and either Spenser or Hawk found out about it. Susan was also Spenser’s equal; she could spar with him on a number of levels, and she felt more genuine than do many women characters given birth by male crime-fictionists. In a lot of respects, Parker was a feminist. Hell, Susan was the real bread-winner in their relationship, while the detective (who’d been taught to cook by his father and two carpenter uncles, who reared him) did the majority of food preparation. While many devotees of the Spenser series couldn’t stand Susan Silverman, with her little anal mannerisms and the way Spenser worshipped her, and they wanted the author to kill her off (preferably in a way that demonstrated their own contempt), Parker refused to consider the idea. Personally, I thought the relationship between the sleuth and the shrink was rather sweet. (Haven’t you ever been equally annoyed by the way friends behave with their partners? ) Consider this passage from Paper Doll (1993):
I never saw Susan without feeling a small but discernible thrill. The thrill was mixed with a feeling of gratitude that she was with me, and a feeling of pride that she was with me, and a feeling of arrogance that she was fortunate to be with me. But mostly it was just a quick pulse along the ganglia which, if it were audible, would sound a little like woof.
That Spenser made himself vulnerable to Susan, and that she seemed to be the only one who could consistently fetch warmth from the hulking Hawk, gave all of them more dimensions and humanness.

Parker won his only Edgar Allan Poe Award (in the Best Novel category) for 1976’s Promised Land, which was all about how men think, and their masculinity, and the codes they live by. Mortal Stakes (1975) was another early winner. It’s about Spenser scrutinizing the behavior of a popular Red Sox pitcher who may be betting on his own games, and the family drama he stumbles onto in the course of that investigation--a drama that would have made Macdonald proud. In the end, Spenser questions his use of violence and how you know when you have gone too far.

But if you want to understand why so many readers were devoted to this author, you really must pick up a copy of Early Autumn (1981), in which Spenser is hired to protect a young boy, Paul Giacomin, from being kidnapped amid a parental custody quarrel. By the middle of that book, Spenser deduces that both parents are nuts, so he hauls Paul off on a camping trip to Maine, where they exercise, build a house, and, um, take in a little ballet on the side. These efforts aren’t to teach Paul to be a man so much as they are intended to teach him how to be an adult--seemingly the only one in his dysfunctional family. There’s some wonderfully tender writing in Early Autumn, and a smattering of barbs launched against the way modern society treats children.

The other best-remembered Spenser novel, Looking for Rachel Wallace (1980), is a completely different beast. In that tale, he’s hired to protect a lesbian feminist author whose explosive book about sexism is about to be released. Rachel Wallace is contemptuous of Spenser’s notions about codes of honor and the necessary application of force. She tells him that she does not approve of violence, unless her life is in danger. She is right, of course: Spenser’s ideas are old-fashioned and don’t apply to everyone, and the times, they are a-changin’. Fed up with his behavior, Wallace fires our hero. Her subsequent kidnapping, though, leads Spenser back to her aid. It’s a powerful novel, and the climax is wonderful and cathartic. Parker was a scholar, and it showed. He tackled heavy topics like race, poverty, feminism, and gay sexuality, and he did it all with style.

Robert B. Parker’s spare, economical storytelling and distinctive characters have been imitated by dozens of writers over the years, but most of those copycats did a lousy job and ultimately vanished. The few who did win acclaim were able to do what Parker did: start with something familiar, and then innovate.

But even Parker wasn’t always at the top of his game. Somewhere in the 1990s--after he’d completed the last Philip Marlowe novel Chandler was working on when he passed away (Poodle Springs, 1989) and then written a sequel to Chandler’s 1939 first novel, The Big Sleep (Perchance to Dream, 1991)--his power slipped. He still turned out some fine work (1994’s All Our Yesterdays, about a family of Boston cops, was a fabulous read), and the books still contained lots of humor, great dialogue, and memorable players. Something crucial was missing, though. That was a hard time to be a fan and convince others of Parker’s genius. In his defense, however, Parker never became a “factory writer” on the order of Tom Clancy or the aforementioned Patterson, men who are more famous for their names than their prose. He kept plugging along, doing what professional writers do, hoping to bounce back. And he finally did just that. In 1997 Parker launched into new territory with Night Passage, bringing forth another protagonist: Jesse Stone, an alcoholic former ballplayer and onetime Los Angeles homicide cop, who becomes a small-town Massachusetts sheriff. Jesse Stone was a stoic and solitary man, dumped by his beautiful wife--a far cry from Parker’s warrior poet detective.

Just two years after debuting Stone, Parker rolled out Family Honor, the first of what would be half a dozen Sunny Randall books. Sunny is a woman in her 30s, who carries a torch for her mobbed-up ex-hubby, toys with becoming an artist, and turns to her retired cop father and more brutal uncle when she needs assistance on a case. However, she is probably best recognized for the reason she was originally created--as a character to be portrayed on-screen by one of Parker’s friends, Helen Hunt of Mad About You and As Good As It Gets fame. Somewhere along the line, the film franchise deal collapsed, but Parker stuck with his fictional female creation, even though she never rose to the popularity of either Spenser or Stone.

Looking for other challenges, Parker penned a historical crime novel about black baseball legend Jackie Robinson (Double Play, 2004). He also tried his hand at western fiction. Gunman’s Rhapsody (2001) brought Old West legends Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Bat Masterson back to life in the troubled town of Tombstone; and even though his portrayal of Earp--besotted with love for showgirl Josephine Marcus--owed a recognizable debt to Spenser, Gunman’s Rhapsody excited the public’s attention. Once again, Parker had changed his style, becoming more terse and tough. I don’t think he gets enough credit for his ability to alter his voice.

He went on to compose a small series of western novels featuring gunslingers Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. They were a hardy and funny pair, and their first book-length adventure, Appaloosa, 2005), was adapted by actor Ed Harris into a movie remarkably faithful to Parker’s book, in which he starred with Viggo Mortensen. This was not Parker’s first foray into other media, of course. In the late-1980s, ABC-TV broadcast Spenser: For Hire, based on the Spenser books. Although the show had its weaknesses, it is fondly remembered by many, especially for Avery Brooks’ spot-on performance as the menacing Hawk.

Spenser, too, enjoyed a comeback. School Days (2005), the 32nd entry in that series, was an intelligent and somber story about the Boston shamus looking into a tragic school shooting. I think it was as good as any books he wrote in his 1970s and ’80s prime, and seemed to re-energize him. The later Spenser books were all pretty good.

Even though the author is now gone, there are still a few more of his books in the publishing pipeline, including a fifth western, Blue-Eyed Devil (due out in May), and the 39th Spenser adventure, Painted Ladies (due for release in September). So his fans won’t have to adapt immediately to a world without any new Parker works. But they will eventually--I hope. I’d hate to see happen to Parker what happened to V.C. Andrews, Mario Puzo, and Robert Ludlum: that some publishing “genius” decides to carry on his series, ghost-written by other, less-talented writers. That would be an insult to one of the most important crime writers who ever lived.
* * *
In tribute to Robert B. Parker, we asked a variety of his professional peers, friends, and critics to weigh in on the author’s life and literary accomplishments. This first batch is posted below; a second collection will appear on this page tomorrow.

Robert Crais, the creator of California private eye Elvis Cole and author of The First Rule:

There has always been a “Big Three” in American detective fiction--Chandler, Hammett, and Macdonald. Now there is a “Big Four,” and deservedly so. Robert B. Parker influenced a generation of writers. His contributions will continue to influence the coming generations. A tragic and terrible loss.

T. Jefferson Parker, the author of Iron River:

I grew up with two Robert Parkers. One was my father, Robert F., and the other was Robert B. Parker, the writer. Robert B. generously blurbed my first book, Laguna Heat [1985], after making a wisecrack about me being his “long-lost cousin.” I loved his books. I loved the ease with which he told a story, the sparse but always believable action, the tough humor. The wisecracking tough guy never had a better friend than Robert B. Parker. If you think that kind of character must be easy to write, think again, and look at all the pale imitations that Parker spawned. I’ll miss that voice of his very much.

Tim Maleeny, the author of Stealing the Dragon and Jump:

For me, Parker resurrected the country’s passion for the P.I. novel. The Godwulf Manuscript not only brought Parker plenty of lifelong fans, it reminded people how great Chandler and Hammett were, and how crime fiction stands apart with its own moral compass. I don’t think half of today’s bestselling mystery writers would have found a market for their books if Parker hadn’t reminded the publishing industry of that rich tradition. He opened things up for all of us.

Gary Phillips, author of The Darker Mask and Freedom’s Fight:

The first Parker-Spenser book I read--and indeed it was the first one in the series, The Godwulf Manuscript--was for an extension class I took on how to write a mystery novel, taught by Bob Crais. Bob had us break the book down so we got an understanding of structure, pacing, what characters reveal and don’t reveal, and so on. This gave me the kick in the butt I needed to get my own writing in gear. Naturally, I’d go on to read more Spensers and enjoy them. While some of the plots run together after all these years, a function of age, I won’t forget my first time reading Mr. Parker and how impressed I was with the writing. On balance, his work will stand the test.

Elizabeth Foxwell, the managing editor of Clues: A Journal of Detection and co-author, with Dean James, of The Robert B. Parker Companion:

Robert B. Parker advanced the hard-boiled subgenre by placing his smart-mouthed P.I., Spenser, in a committed relationship with Susan Silverman; providing a strong sense of place in Spenser’s Boston; and creating the African-American Hawk as an equal and valued partner for Spenser. He also had an appreciation for detective fiction as an important literary form, as can be seen in his 1970 doctoral dissertation for Boston University; his completion of the Raymond Chandler manuscript Poodle Springs; and his sequel to Chandler’s The Big Sleep, Perchance to Dream. Writers and readers alike have benefited tremendously from his work.

David Corbett, author of The Devil’s Redhead and the forthcoming novel, Do They Know I’m Running?:

My late wife was a lawyer, and one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever met. But once the workday was done, around 9:00 at night usually, she’d turn off the phone, put on her PJs, climb into bed with the dogs, and crack open a mystery novel. More times than not, that mystery was written by Bob Parker. She could easily devour an entire Spenser novel in one sitting. One night, as I was getting into bed, she tossed down the particular book she’d been reading, sat up in bed, flexed her muscles and said, in a singularly goofy voice: I wanna be Spenser. I want a code and a quest.

A light went on when she did that. I realized what a gift it is to be able to create a character readers love that much, to write a book people feel that way about, a book they can get lost in: people who work hard every day, trying to make the world at least a slightly better place. To write those kinds of books--that’s important work, it’s noble work. And I think that’s something Bob Parker, a working-class Irish kid from Boston, never lost sight of.

Don Winslow, Southern California author of The Dawn Patrol, Savages, and The Gentlemen’s Hour:

This is awful. I’m really crushed. I was reading him when I was a P.I. Very sad news.

Terrill Lee Lankford, author of the novels Blonde Lightning and Earthquake Weather:

Robert B. Parker picked up the torch from the old school and ran with it for 40 years, lighting fires of imitation along the road. His stepchildren are everywhere--and they know who I am talking about. He may not write any more books (then again, knowing him, maybe he WILL!), but his influence will be felt for generations to come. He was also a really nice guy. Adios, amigo.

Jeff Somers, author of The Eternal Prison:

Anyone who appreciates great characters, good stories, and crackling dialogue loved Robert B. Parker’s work. And anyone aspiring to write tight, brilliant novels was alternately awed and envious of the man. His work will be missed.

James Scott Bell, the author of Try Fear:

Robert B. Parker’s career is an inspiration to all working writers. He was a pro in the best sense of the term. He did his work, and he did it long and well and died in the saddle. He’ll be missed, not only for his books but for his example.

James Grady, the Montana-born author of Six Days of the Condor (1974) and Mad Dogs:

Robert Parker shot the private-eye novel back into post-1950s America with brilliance that went straight to our hearts. He quite literally built his Spenser series by learning from America’s inventors of that genre, but laid his own art on their examples. Gone but not forgotten.

Kelli Stanley, author of Nox Dormienda and City of Dragons:

Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Robert B. Parker. An unbroken chain of literary and cultural influence, the patriarchs of the P.I. genre, gumshoes, dingus, and mean streets handed down from generation to generation.

The P.I. genre, perhaps suitably, is always rumored to be dead, dying, or gone. No room for chevaliers, not even space for men of honor and code. Too rent by clichés. Too out of touch. Parker proved the obituaries wrong and took up the torch and ran all the way. And made it look easy.

I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to thank him in person ... for the faith he gave me personally, for the influence, for the heritage, for resuscitating a moribund genre that will now be around as long as people want to read books about people who care.

As he did.

Thank you, RBP. You’ve left some giant footprints.

Marc Blatte, the author of Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed:

There’s good suspense and then there’s better suspense--call it SuSpenser. Parker was magical.

Bill Cameron, the author of Chasing Smoke:

Like a lot of people my age, my first encounter with Robert B. Parker was by proxy, through Spenser: For Hire. I enjoyed the show, but it didn’t inspire me to rush out and snap up Parker novels, especially given so much else to read. What the hell did I know?

Fortunately, I had a friend who set me straight. Many years later, he thrust a Parker book into my hands and all but threatened to pistol-whip me if I didn’t give it a try. I did, and didn’t look back. After that, I devoured every Parker book I could find. I may have come to him late and after naïvely dismissing him for a silly reason, but he took his rightful place in my personal pantheon.

Brett Battles, the author of Shadow of Betrayal:

It’s impossible to sum up the impact Robert B. Parker had on fiction in general and me personally. He was, and will always remain, a pillar of the industry, and I have a feeling his presence will be felt over the crime-fiction world for many decades to come.

Peter Robinson, the creator of British police Inspector Alan Banks and the author of 2009’s The Price of Love and Other Stories:

It’s hard to imagine a world without Robert B. Parker. He was one of the first living writers to get me interested in crime fiction close to 30 years ago, and I will read those early Spenser books again and again for as long as I live. Parker brought the private eye of Hammett, Chandler, and Ross Macdonald into the contemporary world, and more. His books often dealt with difficult themes at a time when many other writers sought merely to entertain, but he never lost sight of the entertainment value, himself. You could always rely on Parker for thrills, witty dialogue, and a fast, bumpy ride. I will certainly miss him, as will the entire crime-writing community. I read in one of the obituaries that he died at his desk, and somehow that seems fitting for a man so passionate about and so committed to fine writing. Requiescat in pace.

Tom Schreck, author of the Duffy Dumbrowski mysteries:

Very simply, [he was] my hero and a large part of the reason I started to try to write fiction. Like losing a best friend.

Bob Morris, the author of Baja Florida:

Oh man, that one hit me hard, even though I didn’t know him except through correspondence. But I had a Parker tribute in my Crime Fiction class at Rollins College the other night. I’m teaching [my students] how to write the first pages of a mystery novel. And there is no better writer to learn from than Robert Parker, who knew how to jump-start a story from the get-go with humor and sparkling dialogue and the silkiest sentences ever crafted.

I’m gonna name my next dog Pearl.

Barbara Fister, the author of In the Wind and Through the Cracks:

When I rediscovered crime fiction, after a youth spent in the British Golden Age and a young adulthood in the existential gloom of Russian literature, Robert B. Parker was one of the writers who coaxed me back into the genre. His work was striking for its laconic grace, its moral code, and its sly, understated humor. I can’t recall which book it was in, but I will never forget Spenser looking out of his window at a rainy Boston street and thinking “petals on a wet black bough.” What class. He will be missed, but never gone from the top ranks of the genre.

Timothy Hallinan, the author of Breathing Water:

There’s no novelist who couldn’t learn something from Robert B. Parker. He did it all superlatively: character, setting, story, dialogue. But what always amazed me was his economy. He used words as though parting with them caused him pain. When I look back at the books that were born during the so-called Golden Age of the detective story, one thing that always strikes me is how short they are. Parker managed to fit a contemporary sensibility--one that made room for both sensitivity and relationships--into books that were told in the absolute minimum number of words. It’s only possible to do this when they’re the right words. Take away enough words but retain the meaning and the spirit, and what’s left is poetry.

Parker might have scoffed at this, but I think he was one of the form’s real poets.

Peter Spiegelman, the author of Red Cat:

He was, as so many have noted, a bridge between the world of the ancient giants--Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald--and our own, and in re-imagining the fictional private eye, Parker rescued him from pastiche and mere posturing. He preserved and expanded a tradition of storytelling I’m proud to be a small part of, and I’m proud to cite Parker as an influence and an inspiration. Quite simply, without Bob Parker and Spenser, my fictional private investigator, John March, would not exist.

I had the honor of meeting him, very briefly, several years ago, and I pretty much devolved into a stammering fan-boy. I did manage to tell him how much I enjoyed his books, and that he was one of the reasons I’d become a writer, and though he must’ve heard that hundreds of times before, he was as gracious, good-humored, and encouraging as I could’ve hoped. I’ll never forget it.

Decorative painter Denise Lindquist:

I worked for Robert Parker and his wife, Joan, for many years painting murals in their home(s). Bob was consistently respectful, funny (bust-a-gut funny), and incredibly generous, not only monetarily but in sharing his heart and soul. Both he and Joan were this way to me and to everyone they knew. Other than writing, he loved his dogs, singing, cooking on his Jenn-Air [range], and as we all know, his wife, Joan.

He was known to jokingly threaten some of us tradespeople, [saying] that if we didn’t meet our deadlines (usually for parties or photo shoots of the house), we just might turn up as new characters in his books, perhaps in precarious situations with farm animals. While we got the humor, more so we respected the intent behind it ... He put himself out into the world as a regular guy; he was anything but. Bob was truly a very self-aware person, which made him easy to be around, because he was so aware of others.

I write this on the day of his death with a heavy heart. He is a man that will be missed so dearly by so many.

Jeremiah Healy, author of the John Francis Cuddy P.I. series:

Bob Parker gave me my first “blurb,” back in 1986 for my second novel, The Staked Goat. When my 10th book, Rescue, was coming out in 1995, I asked him if he’d be willing to read the galley and give me another blurb. His reply?: “I’ll do one or the other, but not both.”

The main title sequence from Spenser: For Hire (1985-1988).

(Part II of this Parker tribute can be found here.)

READ MORE:A Man of Action, Guided by Reason, Motivated by Love,” by Tim Byrd (Under an Outlaw Moon).


pattinase (abbott) said...

What a great comprehensive tribute this was. Thank!

kathy d. said...

This is fantastic.

I read many books years ago by Robert Parker and enjoyed them. Now I'll read those I didn't read then.

Ali Karim said...



David Cranmer said...

I've read most of the articles on Parker this week and this was, hands down, the finest tribute.

Cameron Hughes said...

Thanks everyone.

And now I get to rest.

Max Allan Collins said...

A few people have misunderstood my point about not being a Parker fan. If my words lacked grace, I apologize -- my intention was to indicate that whether you like a writer of Parker's magnitude or not (and this is the Spillane connection), respect must be paid. Now and then somebody comes along who re-invents and reinvigorates the P.I. genre, and Parker was one of those giants. This goes beyond writers who were influenced by him (how many private eye writers of the last twenty years have had a Hawk to their Spenser?), but anybody who landed a contract for a P.I. novel post-Parker.

Michelle said...

Thank you for the wonderful tribute. As a female fan, I adored the relationship between Spenser and Susan.

Anonymous said...

It's funny, with Parker's next release to always look forward to life always seemed a little brighter, the world is a little less now with his loss. I did find a worthy replacement though in Curtis J. Hopfenbeck ( I read an article on him entitled "Passing the baton" and he is just as tough, smart and funny as Parker. So just wanted to pass it on to my fellow Parker fans, there is a light at the end of the Parkerless tunnel!

Anonymous said...

For brainy women everywhere, Spenser was our hero. He discovered and portrayed the super-glue strength and hormone-flooded chemistry that can exist between two strong and confident and intelligent people. One special gift of the late 20th century was the space creted for couples like this to exist -- where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the dogs are above average.