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.
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.
1968, The Mod Squad, a trio of undercover “hippie” cops, “One black, one white, one blonde.”
Williams played Linc Hayes with an Afro and dignity. What could have been played for laughs turned out to be groundbreaking for its black co-lead and the socially relevant stories of drugs, race, and the Vietnam War.
From 2003-2007 Williams solved crimes on a much quieter level as Philby Cross, ex-government spy on Hallmark’s Mystery Woman.
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.
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.