Thursday, January 21, 2010

Robert B. Parker

by Dave White

Parker was one of my biggest influences. I've been reading his books forever. His death hit me pretty hard this week.

I wrote a tribute on my blog, and I'm not sure how much cross traffic we get between here and there, so I thought it would be a good idea to repost the tribute here:

R.I.P. Robert B. Parker

My father once said that THE GOLDWULF MANUSCRIPT was the kind of book he wanted to write. Robert B. Parker just did it a lot better.

Parker was my first introduction to the world of private investigators via Spenser. My parents were always buying his paperbacks, reading them, and then passing them to me. I loved the voice, the witty banter, the action, everything that went along with a Spenser novel. I enjoyed that Spenser never felt rushed, and rarely felt afraid. He knew he would solve the case, and he would do what it would take to get the job done. Some people would call it lazy writing, all the tension taken out of the novel. It didn't matter to me. I loved Parker's characters. They were broadly drawn, but had a depth to them that would sneak up on you.

I even liked Susan.

Between my freshman and sophomore year of college, I breezed through the first four novels on a road trip to Florida. During that trip, MORTAL STAKES became one of my all time favorite books. After that, I didn't miss a novel.

And as the series went on, people complained the quality of them sagged. I kept buying them, the day they came out.

You see, the Spenser novels weren't about thrilling reads to me. They became a visit with an old, tough, and funny friend. Half the fun was noting the types of beer Spenser drank, trying to spot quotes from English lit. Half my witty comebacks were borne from something read in a Spenser novel. I always wanted to know what Spenser was up to... even if it was the same old same old. I even read Jesse Stone, Sunny Randall, and the Appaloosa novels. None of them were Spenser.

I couldn't give him up.

Last fall, the last (I'm assuming) Spenser novel was published. As usual, I bought it on release day. I hadn't read it yet. I gave it to my parents to check out. There were other things to read. Other books to check out, other authors I wanted to get to first.

THE PROFESSIONAL is going to be my next read. I'll probably read it slowly, trying to savor that one last visit with an old friend.

Those visits will be missed.


John McFetridge said...

Thanks for posting this here, too, Dave.

Robert B. Parker was one of those people who make something very difficult look really easy - like another guy who always makes me think of Boston - Bobby Orr.

I first discovered Spenser in the early 80's and when he and Hawk came to Montreal in The Judas Goat it was a big deal for me.

Susan, like all women worth spending time with, drove me crazy sometimes, but hey, if Spenser wanted to spend so much time with her, that was good enough for me.

Dana King said...

THE GODWULF MANUSCRIPT was more than a good book; it was an important book, breathing new life into the PI genre when it was about to be declared dead.

I loved the early Spenser books, especially those when Hawk still had a more dangerous vibe than he came to have. A stopped reading new ones a few years ago, when I had the feeling he was mailing them in. I stayed longer with him than I would have with another writer for the reasons you mentioned: I loved those characters.

I've heard several places that the last couple of books were written more like the early ones. I'll have to check them out.