Robert B. Parker – A Perfect Way To Die

The Core Belief

Robert Lehman gave me my first Spenser Mystery in the late winter of 1990. I read it lying on the family room couch over the course of three hours. I looked up at the pitch dark that had rolled over the backyard deck and was being held back by the sliding doors. It was almost 7pm and I had to go out and meet the gang. That night I would discuss my new addiction with Robert: Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels. I would write whole stories in Parker’s style on a computer who’s format is no longer available thank Christ.

Parker was a teacher at Northeastern University when his first Spenser book The Godwulf Manuscript was published in 1973. 12 years later, ABC would take this detective series and turn it into a cult favorite television show Spencer: For Hire. Robert Urich played Spenser, Avery Brooks starred as his immaculately dressed sidekick, thug with a purpose Hawk and Barbara Stock was Susan Silverman, Spenser’s love interest. The show lasted until 1988.

I became a fan of the show once it was syndicated by the Lifetime Network but it missed the moral complexity found in Spenser book likes Taming a Sea Horse (The tag line for the book should have been Susan Silverman’s line: there will always be whores.). Seven cable movies were aired, four starring the original cast and three with Joe Mantegna as Spenser and they failed as to capture complexity as well. However, they were great entertainment.

The later Spenser novels weren’t up to the quality of the first 15 or so but I bought them all in hardcover anyway. Every now and then, Spenser, Hawk and Susan would return to form – Double Deuce, Small Vices, Back Story. Like millions of other fans, I was just happy to read a wise crack from my favorite gumshoe. Who cared if the story was preposterous?

Like his idol Raymond Chandler, Robert B. Parker became as much a character in the universe he created as Hawk, Spenser, Susan, Gino Fish, and Paul Giancomin et al. So it seemed perfect that when his death came yesterday, Parker was sitting at his writing desk, working. His was a writer’s death whose veracity will be argued for decades by his fans.

He will be missed.

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