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Robert B. Parker RIP

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Since his most famous character was the Boston PI Spenser, this seemed like the most appropriate place to mention that, on another site, I was informed that best-selling crime novelist Robert B. Parker passed away apparently while writing at his desk.  He was 77.

An prolific writer (more than 60 books in 37 years), his most successful character was Boston private eye Spenser, described, not without some justification, as Philip Marlowe transplanted to Boston.  One of his early Spenser novels, Promsied Land, was the first hard-boiled private eye novel in nearly two decades to win an Edgar for Best Mystery Novel.

Parker's devotion to the hard-boiled PI form was long-standing.  He was a college professor prior to becoming a novelist, and his doctoral thesis was on hard-boiled pioneers Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.  In addition to his Spenser series, he was selected to complete Chandler's unfinished (and in all likelihood abandoned) Marlowe novel, Poodle Springs, which he followed up with an original Marlowe pastiche, Perchance to Dream, a direct sequel to the first Marlowe novel, The Big Sleep.

While most of his output featured Spenser, he'd branced out in recent years, creating another Boston-set series about female PI Sunny Randall; a police procedural series about Jesse Stone, chief of a small-town police force in Massachusetts; and a western series featuring Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, a pair of itinerant frontier lawman.  In the last year, perhaps taking note of the success of the Harry Potter series, he'd begun a series of young adult mysteries featuring Spenser during his adolescent years.

The Spenser novels had, in recent years, gotten a lot of criticism for becoming so formulaic, and such criticism was not entirely unjustified.  But the early Spenser books are extraordinarily good, and it's not overstating the case to suggest that it was Parker's huge success with Spenser that revitalized a mystery sub-genre that had, frankly, become pretty moribund during the 1960's and early '70's.  The MWA recognized his significant contributions to the genre by naming him a Grand Master in 2002.

Mr. Parker had a large number of intensely loyal fans.  He'll be greatly missed.

Dave Freas:

--- Quote from: JIM DOHERTY on January 20, 2010, 02:58:04 AM ---Mr. Parker had a large number of intensely loyal fans.  He'll be greatly missed.
--- End quote ---

I sure will miss him.  Parker was probably the first mystery writer who caught and captured my attention with his style and voice.  I agree his novels became a bit formulaic of late, but after 30+ books in the series, what new ground is there to explore?  Having said that, let me say they were and are and will continue to be great entertainment because of Parker's voice and sharp dialog.

I admit, too, to finding his Jesse Stone series a bit fresher and realistic (the only word I can think of) than Spenser.


Bob Mueller:
He will definitely be missed. He was the author who really got me interested in mysteries. Did not know he was a professor prior to writing.

It's sad to see such a talented writer pass on. I don't think his space on the bookstore shelves will be replaced by another writer for a very long time.

I was sad to hear of his passing. I was a fan of his Jesse Stone books and will miss Robert Parker and his writing.



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