Wednesday, January 20, 2010


So, Robert B. Parker passed away on Monday, sitting at his desk in his Cambridge home. He was 77 years old.

This makes me sad, very, very sad, as Parker is one of my all time favorite authors and, just recently, I wrote on this blog about how Parker's creation Spenser is one of my all time favorite characters.

I started reading Spenser novels in college. My sister stumbled on to them originally and we both were interested because they were mentioned in Ellen Emerson White's President's Daughter series. Every time we drove on Route One in the Boston area, every time we saw the restaurant shaped like a boat, we would utter the eternal line, "Maybe Squanto had made a mistake." And then laugh.

But Squanto didn't make a mistake because without Squanto, we never would have gotten to read anything by Robert B. Parker. There would be no Spenser, no Hawk, no Belson or Quirk. There would be no Pearl the Wonder Dog or Vinnie Morris or...oh, all right, there would also be so Susan Silverman who hasn't been one of my favorites for a while now but she was Spenser's love and for his sake, I shall put a moratorium on my dislike of the woman.

There also wouldn't be Jesse Stone, the police chief in Paradise, with his faithful sidekicks Suit and Molly. It took me a few novels to get into the Jesse Stone series but I got there eventually.

I even read the Sunny Randall novels. I am not a Sunny Randall fan. I think I like Susan more than I like Sunny. She never gelled with me but I still read all her novels because Parker was the one who wrote them.

He also wrote Westerns, starting with Appaloosa about the famed yet flawed hero Virgil Cole and his faithful cohort, Everett Hitch. I wrote a blog last year about Virgil and his imperfections which, in my view, really made him perfect.

Parker wrote other novels too. He wrote some young adult books, including Edenville Owls and Chasing The Bear (a "young Spenser" novel). He wrote All Our Yesterdays and Double Play and Perchance to Dream, a sequel to Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. He was versatile and witty and accessible and I will miss him.

Back when I was teaching, I had a student who wasn't a big reader. His parents even said he just didn't want to read but they would love for me to change that. I managed to draw him in with Stephen King's Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption because he'd liked the movie but when that kid came into my classroom and tossed my copy of Rita Hayworth on the table, and said in an obvious challenge, "What else have you got?", I went to Robert B. Parker. I turned to Spenser.

"You'll like the main character," I said. "He reminds me of you."

"Really?" the kid asked. "How?"

"He's a smart ass," I said.

Two pages in to Hush Money, the kid was hooked and never looked back.

So, here's to you, Robert B. Parker. You'll be much missed.

1 comment:

  1. He was a wonderful writer. I had not heard that he died at his desk. Somehow, that seems so right.

    Straight From Hel