January 19, 2010

THE BIG SLEEPER:

Robert B. Parker left a mark on the detective novel: The writer, who died Monday, wrote more than 60 books in a variety of styles. But Spenser, his Korean War veteran detective, influenced the genre. (Sarah Weinman, January 20, 2010, LA Times)

Robert B. Parker, who died Monday in his Cambridge, Mass., home at age 77, spent his final moments doing exactly what he'd done for almost four decades: sitting at his desk, working on his next novel. He didn't concern himself with looking back. Instead, he wrote, and in the process irrevocably altered American detective fiction, forging a link between classic depictions and more contemporary approaches to the form.

Parker produced more than five dozen books in a variety of styles, including westerns, historical fiction, a marriage memoir and a nonfiction account of horse racing. But the bulk of his writing revolves around Spenser, the one-named, Korean War vet detective first introduced in "The Godwulf Manuscript" (1973).

That novel, which Parker wrote two years after publishing his Boston University doctoral thesis on the violent heroes of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, is a clear pastiche of those authors' works. Parker's biggest debt, though, was to Chandler, whose detective, Philip Marlowe, inspired Spenser's poet-inflected surname, his noble quest for justice and his desire to save women from miscreants.

The Chandler connection ran so deep that Parker completed the unfinished Marlowe manuscript "Poodle Springs" in 1989 and a year later published "Perchance to Dream," a sequel to "The Big Sleep."


He only rarely fulfilled the early promise, most significantly in A Savage Place.

MORE:
In appreciation of Robert B. Parker, creator of "Spenser for Hire":Robert B. Parker, prolific and beloved writer of detective fiction, died at his home in Cambridge, Mass. (Marjorie Kehe, January 19, 2010, CS Monitor)

Parker himself started life as an academic. He wrote a PhD thesis on detective fiction and worked as a college professor before he discovered his true vocation as a novelist.

Two more of his books, "Split Image" and "Blue-Eyed Devil," are scheduled for publication this year. But last year's release, "The Professional," will now be the final word on Spenser.

Fittingly perhaps, Parker, who spent so much of his life shaping books, is reported to have died sitting at his desk in his study in Cambridge, Mass.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 19, 2010 7:27 PM
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