Robert B. Parker is still one of my favourite authors, although his earlier books are the ones I enjoy the most: the twelve novels that introduce Spenser and chart his relationship with Susan Silverman from The Godwulf Manuscript (1973) to A Catskill Eagle (1985) are sublime. Whilst the character of Spenser, like the novels, has lost some of his edge in recent years, Parker’s books are hugely more entertaining than almost all the contemporary crime writers I’ve sampled.
Now I’ve just spotted on Amazon Chasing the Bear: A Young Spenser Novel. When I’m rereading an early Spenser, it rarely bothers me that I now know how (like the writing) he softens in the later books. But filling out his youth (the details of which Parker has retconned already) is something that is best left to the reader. I’ve never wanted to read Young Bond or Young Holmes books, but at least they aren’t by the original creator. And can you imagine wanting to read what Philip Marlowe got up to at school? Like Spenser, his character may have juvenile traits, but for us to believe in him he has to live entirely in the adult world.
Spenser is an almost entirely self-made person; he’s often stated how much better being an adult is than being a kid. He wouldn’t want to go back. Nor do I. I wonder why Parker does?