Robert B. Parker: 1932-2010
Robert B. Parker, the man behind the Spenser, Sunny Randall, and Jesse Stone mystery series, as well as the Appaloosa westerns, died this morning at his writing desk at the age of 77. Parker had written over sixty novels and won the Grand Master Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America.
I’d seen a few episodes of the 80’s TV series Spenser For Hire with Robert Urich and Avery Brooks (Spen-sah!) when it first aired, but I was introduced to Parker’s writing by DC Comics. The Spenser novels were a secret passion of a lot of the editors and writers there because of Parker’s elegant and compact style. I picked up on them and devoured them all.
I suspect one of the hidden appeals of the Spenser novels to comics writers wasn’t the mysteries themselves– Parker once said that his mysteries weren’t hard to figure out– but the moral dilemmas and character choices that came out of them. They weren’t so much whodunnits as whatthehelldowedoaboutits.
For many people around the world, the names Spenser, Susan Silverman, Sunny Randall, and Jesse Stone evoke more of Massachusetts than the Kennedy name does– and that’s saying a great deal.
I met Parker a few times, and he was just about what you would have expected from his prose or his appearances in some of the Spenser TV movies– thoughtful and cordial, yet without pretense. I am saddened by his passing, and wonder how I’m going to be able to reliably tell in the future when spring has come without a new RBP novel to mark it. My sympathies to his wife Joan, and his children David and Daniel.