Robert B. Parker died in January 2010, a little over two and a half years ago. He was a prolific author, writing a book a year for his longest running and most literate private eye, Spenser. A Chandler-esque character (Parker was the author who completed the unfinished Marlowe novel Poodle Springs) Parker gave his creation his own modern spin. Some of the series are among my all-time favourite books (notably The Widening Gyre), and I’ve been saving up the very last three he ever wrote for a while. Other authors have been commissioned to continue both this series and two of his others, but I have no interest in those. Tonight I finished the last of Parker’s Spenser, Sixkill. And I’m pleased to say I enjoyed it; it was among the better ones of recent years and featured many of his characters from the earlier stories (Susan, of course, Henry Cimoli, Quirk, Samuelson, Cataldo) as well as more recent regulars (Tony Marcus, Chollo, Bobby Horse and Del Rio). Even better there was a new character, perhaps with some familiar traits (both a heavy like Hawk, Vinnie Morris and the rest; and a rescue like Paul Giacomin, April Kyle).
But Robert B. Parker’s best stuff was written between 1973 and 1985, those first dozen stories that encompass the ‘Susan’ arc, from meeting her in novel #2 (God Save the Child) through to the… defining occurrences (no spoilers) in novel #12 (A Catskill Eagle). Encompassing his developing relationship with the amoral enforcer and ex-boxer, Hawk, along the way (the one sad thing about this final novel being that Parker left him stuck in Central Asia when he checked out). Those early stories were on a different level altogether… Wow, they were good. Everything since has been…. fine… But in the way that Spenser liked burgers and beer, and “the worst burger I ever ate was great” just as the worst Spenser novel I ever read was entertaining, so too can you only have the first drink of the day once. Those early novels, fresh & original, have remained unmatched.
Still, here’s to you, Robert B. Parker, for keeping us entertained for all these years.
After the rain lifted, the world would probably seem as freshly washed as I was. the cleanliness was almost certainly illusory, or at best short-lasting. But life is mostly metaphor, anyway.
I got in my care and drove west.
Photo: Look by bodzas on Flickr.