Wednesday 20 January 2010

Robert B. Parker R.I.P.

Robert B. Parker died on Monday at the age of 77. I learned of the passing of one of the great private eye writers of the modern era from the excellent and consistently informative blogs of Bill Crider (who met Parker a couple of times) and Sarah Weinman, and I was sorry to learn the news. For I have read perhaps nine or ten of his books, and enjoyed them.

Parker is most famous for creating Spenser, the gumshoe whose first name remained (as far as I am aware) unknown. The Spenser books are very much in the Raymond Chandler tradition, and are distinguished by a real gift for dialogue. There were times when I found the main supporting character, the lovely Susan and the violent Hawk, a bit hard to take for different reasons, but Parker’s snappy way with words made his books insistently readable. He wrote fairly short books, and although it is fashionable to write books twice as long, many writers (including me) can learn from Parker’s succinct style.

I’d like to mention a non-series Parker book which I devoured a long time ago, not long after I started work in 1980. I can’t recall much about the detail of the plot, but I do remember thinking it was one of the most gripping thrillers I’d ever read. It’s a book called Wilderness, and it’s the story of a relatively ordinary man confronting the darker side of life after witnessing a murder, and finding himself plunged into a fight for survival. I really must re-read it to see if it’s as good now as it seemed then. I suspect it is.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Such a shame. He was such a gifted writer and created some amazing characters.


Ann Elle Altman said...

I just read here at
that you're going to be judging a contest. Interesting. I won't be entering but I think that it's nice that you're doing that.

I think I would like to see if I could find that book 'Wilderness' and read it.

I've never heard of Robert Parker. I have so many authors to sample. Time, where is my time?

Nice post, as usual.


Anonymous said...

Martin - Thanks so much for this lovely tribute to one of the great forces in the crime fiction world. We have lost a real talent, and that is sad. RIP Robert Parker

David Cranmer said...

This was a tough one for me. Robert B has been in my life a long time.

harriet said...

I read and very much enjoyed several of his books in the 1980s. He deserves to be better known.

Michael Walters said...

I was very sorry to see this news - I became a huge fan of his work when I first read it in the 1980s (and you're right that 'Wilderness' is a terrific book). His best books would serve as a definition of the term 'page turner', and part of his talent was that he made it seem so effortless.

Nan said...

I'm so sad about this. I'll look into Wilderness. One of my favorites was his young adult book, Edenville Owls. I wrote about it a while back:

I had so hoped for a sequel. I had hoped for a much longer life for him.

Martin Edwards said...

Many thanks for these comments. He was a very significant figure in American crime writing of the last 30 years.
Nan, until today I had no idea that RBP wrote 'young adult' books.