Thursday, May 05, 2011


Mystery writer Robert B. Parker, who died in January of last year, created several series characters, including P.I. Sunny Randall (Spenser in a skirt); Jesse Stone, small town police chief (Spenser as a drunk) and the best known who is, of course, plain old Spenser.

A wise-cracking tough guy, Spenser lives in Boston, is in love with Susan, a shrink, has Pearl the wonder dog, and his best buddy is Hawk, deadliest bad-ass in mystery fiction. 

Sixkill, just out, is the last Spenser novel. Actually, to read between the lines, maybe it isn't the last, because the inside cover blurb says, "The last Spenser novel completed by Robert. B. Parker," and I cynically take that to mean that Parker probably had a chunk of another one in-progress. If that is the case, then undoubtedly his book company would love to hire somebody to finish it for him. The books have been bestsellers forever, made into a TV series, and nobody wants to get ride of their cash cows.

UPDATE: Turned out I was not so cynical–or at least not wrong: Series will continue.

Ahem: Yoo, hoo! I'm a long-time fan! I'm a writer, hey, over here! I'll do it! Pick me! (Too late!)

Actually, Bobby Crais is the guy who should take it on, since his series about L.A. private eye Elvis Cole and his deadly bad-ass buddy, Joe Pike, started out as Spenser on the west coast, and Crais would be right at home with these characters. (Crais has gotten better, and the similarities aren't as close as once they were, but the first one of those I read? No question in my mind it was Spencer gone to LaLaLand.)

Um. Anyway ...

Spenser is not Sherlock Holmes. Mostly, he asks questions until he pisses the bad guys off enough so they want to kill him, and when they try, he takes them out and solves the case that way. One of the original human targets, Spenser is. 

The books are largely dialog, and I can typically read one in an hour or so, they zip right along. Spenser books are like having a quick lunch and a couple beers with a friend. A few laughs, a good time, nothing earth-changing.

In this last real one, Spenser has an obnoxious client who quickly fires him for being a smart-ass. This happens a lot.

As usual, Spenser doesn't quit just because he's fired. He picks up a temporary sidekick– Hawk being in Asia somewhere–a Cree Indian kid named. Zebulon Sixkill, and they bump into bad guys until the bad guys get pissed off. Naturally the bad guys try to bribe them, and that failing, scare them away. That failing, and the bad guys pissed off, it's not a spoiler to tell you the guns come out ...

Long time fans have to read it, no question. And if you haven't read any of these, there are worse ways to spend your reading time. 


Joe said...

Why not write a short Spenser/Hawk/Susan story and submit it to the BigWigs? I think you'd pull it off no prob (Crais is good but I think he'd take Spenser in the wrong direction.)

Steve Perry said...

I'm not sure I'd take them in the right direction, either, but that's not a bad suggestion.

Too late, though:

"NEW YORK – Crime novelist Robert B. Parker is gone, but his most popular series will continue.

Parker's estate and publisher G.P. Putnam's Sons announced Wednesday that new "Spenser" and "Jesse Stone" novels will be written. Michael Brandman, a longtime friend of Parker's, will handle the "Jesse Stone" books. Ace Atkins will take on Spenser. Parker's widow, Joan Parker, says in a statement that she's "delighted" the author's characters will "live on."

Parker died last year at age 77. "Sixkill," a Spenser novel completed before his death, comes out next month."

Captain Tightpants said...

While they are rather straightforward reading, I also love many of the "lessons" contained in the books, which resonate with me. "Early Autumn" still remains to this day an example of boy-to-man which is hard to beat in a simple package.