Although I liked Robert Urich in Spenser for Hire, he never really seemed like the Spenser I read in Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels. His touch was too light. And Lifetime TV’s attempt at Spenser movies still starring the likable Urich were bland palimpsests of the books. No. The real Spenser was in the pages Parker wrote, and I have my doubts anyone could embody him with justice. Spenser’s stream-of-consciousness, first-person narratives gave the reader inside information into what made an idealist like Spenser able to survive with his soul intact sorting out dark tangles beyond the rest of us.
Robert B. Parker
As an academician, Robert B. Parker could have written literary fiction, criticism, or the great American novel, but lucky for us, he found a niche in crime fiction. His Spenser reinforced the admirable notion that adherence to a moral compass and accountability for one’s actions are essential to living a good life. That principle translated seamlessly when he wrote not only the Spenser novels but also his three other deeply satisfying crime series. What made Spenser such a pleasure to read holds true with his books featuring Sunny Randall, Jesse Stone, Virgil Cole, and Everett Hitch.
Have you ever wondered how that favorite author of yours produced a fabulous book after he died? Was the work written prior to the author’s death and only published afterwards? Was the creative effort put in by the originating author, and then edited by someone else? Or, did someone else take over the series altogether? In screenplays, music, and literature, all of these scenarios take place.
In the world of mysteries, the sidekick may serve any number of roles. From Dr. Watson narrating the Sherlock Holmes stories to Robert B. Parker’s Hawk doing dirty work in the Spenser series, sidekicks come in all forms, shapes, and sizes. Everyone has their favorite and numerous polls have tried to determine who readers consider the best crime-fiction sidekick.
“Fathers are important,” Jesse Stone tells a rebellious teenager in Robert B. Parker’s Night Passage. Love him or hate him, whether he is too present in your life or too absent, whether he’s a good father or a nightmare, and even if he is all of the above--we recognize the father as an inescapable archetype whose influence reverberates throughout our lives, proving to be infinitely fertile ground for writers to plunder. Lee Harris’s The Father’s Day Murder makes surprising use of the holiday as the major theme at the heart of her novel. Jonathan Kellerman’s The Butcher’s Theater strongly illustrates the influence for good or ill a father wields. Leonard Holton’s Out Of The Depths reminds us that not all good fathers sire children.
Robert B. Parker’s Spenser had already been a success in 11 books when it came to television in 1985 with Robert Urich in the title role. Parker’s internal monologues translated well to Spenser’s voiceovers on TV, defining a classic PI style that has been envied and copied by writers ever since.