Popular Bostonian Mystery Author ‘dies in the saddle’ – Robert B Parker dies at 77 at his desk, composing a “Spenser For Hire” novel

Parker pounded out 37 witty and eloquent adventures of his most popular and well-known character: a private eye named Spenser, who became the central character of the TV series Spenser: For Hire, starring Robert Urich. Another character, Jesse Stone, the protagonist in nine books, was played by Tom Selleck in a series of television movies. And his 2005 western, Appaloosa, was made into a movie starring Ed Harris.

{Courtesy BU TODAY} "Parker pounded out 37 witty and eloquent adventures of his most popular and well-known character: a private eye named Spenser, who became the central character of the TV series Spenser: For Hire, starring Robert Urich. Another character, Jesse Stone, the protagonist in nine books, was played by Tom Selleck in a series of television movies. And his 2005 western, Appaloosa, was made into a movie starring Ed Harris."

{POTENTIAL SPOILERS IN REMINISCENCE} One of the few things I used to enjoy watching on Lifetime when CBC had STV (Subscription Television) before Multi-Choice (MCTV) was Robert Urich as Spenser For Hire, what I viewed as an ‘intelligent prizefighter‘ who – unlike MacGyver – never revealed his first name. Then I was even more happy to learn there were books the tv series was based on, what I did not count on was there being 37 installments from the prolific Robert B Parker!

Spenser would only emphasise his last name is the same as the poet who did “The Faerie Queene” back in the 16th Century (It was a purported allegory of the history of Queen Elizabeth I by an Edmund Spenser), Spenser’s main compadre was Hawk, played to chilling effect by Avery Brooks, who later became the captain in Deep Space Nine. I also feel that Hawk was the partial inspiration for Gideon’s sidekick in “Dying For Revenge” by Eric Jerome Dickey where a female hitperson by name of Hawks saved the contract killer’s life in Antigua.

"Robert B. Parker wrote without notes, without outlines, without even a story line in his head. He would start each book, he told Bostonia magazine in 2005, with an opening premise, hoping it would lead to chapter two and hoping chapter two would lead to chapter three. Inevitably it did, and over 37 years, it led to 65 books."

{Courtesy BU TODAY} "Robert B. Parker wrote without notes, without outlines, without even a story line in his head. He would start each book, he told Bostonia magazine in 2005, with an opening premise, hoping it would lead to chapter two and hoping chapter two would lead to chapter three. Inevitably it did, and over 37 years, it led to 65 books."

Parker’s last blog entry at his website was May 2009, he was hinting at creating a new character for Spenser to handle and RBP still seems full of moxie – he was ready to do some boxing with his trainer. Gary Goshgarian not only credits Parker in helping him meet his wife, he also had the privilege of calling the author a true friend;-

“There isn’t a bookstore or airport in the free world that doesn’t have his titles on their shelves. And although he didn’t put Boston on the map, he helped keep it there, making this great city accessible to the reading public – its glory and feisty independence, its rich and varied culture, its history and beloved teams. Collectively, his Spenser books are a symphony to this city by the sea.”

Parker’s hardboiled approach was such a hit, he was commissioned by Raymond Chandler’s estate to complete his last Philip Marlowe novel – this leads to the conundrum of who will finish the last Spenser?

“Parker was 30-40 pages into a new novel featuring Spenser, his iconic Boston-based PI, when he suffered what appears to be a fatal heart attack. However, due to his notorious prolific writing habit, there is substantial Parker material still to be published. According to Chris Pepe, his longtime editor at Putnam, there are two books set for release early this year (Split Image, a mystery featuring Jesse Stone, will be out next month, while Blue-Eyed Devil, a Western, hits bookstores later this spring) as well as a couple more in the pipeline.”

thing1Parker’s style of writing was even appreciated by Marvel Comic’s The Thing – aka – Ben Grimm, who preferred Parker’s grittiness to Mickey Spillane’s down to earth approach (Tried googling it, but I recall it in an issue ofTwo-In-One“).

I did try reading other Parker books like his Sonya Randall – aka – “Sunny” who has commitment issues and has joint custody of a Bull Terrier, while enchanting for me, it was still not as enthralling as Spenser – granted, I have not touched a Spenser novel since shortly after I got married! Nearly a decade ago, perhaps another resolution? Catch up on old Hawk and his investigative yet literary-enforcer pal? May flights of old gumshoes guide thee, Mr Parker…

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