The Art of Mysteries- Robert B. Parker

Posted February 28, 2020 by stuckint in Art of Mysteries / 2 Comments

We are so excited to welcome Emily’s father Art back to Stuck in the Stacks. Today he is diving into the works of Robert B. Parker and we are so excited to share his thoughts with you!

Spenser Series

Robert B. Parker started his tribute to noir mysteries and Boston with The Godwulf Manuscript, the first Spenser novel, in 1973. Over the next 38 years, he would write another 39 books in the series.

What made this series one that would be embraced and would even outlast Parker?  Spenser, himself, for starters. A Philip Marlowe-like character, Spenser is a rough-and-tumble former boxer driven by a strong code of right and wrong and committed to his one true love, psychologist Susan Silverman.

But Spenser features a compelling cast of support characters, headed by Hawk, his African American brother in arms and a fellow code follower (although hiring himself out as a mercenary from time to time). There’s also Susan, a long list of other toughs and gunmen who fight by his side and several versions of Pearl, the dog.

The writing is crisp, the dialog compelling and the stories engaging.  The television Spenser was good but never quite captured the essence of the written character. The books also capture Boston and its neighborhoods and include a wide variety of ethnicities and lifestyles uncommon to other long-running series.

There are also YA books about young Spenser, who shared many traits and values with Parker himself.

Jesse Stone Series

Parker also wrote nine novels in the Jesse Stone series, featuring a former LAPD detective who becomes chief of police in a small town north of Boston.  Stone battles alcoholism and his continued love for his ex-wife for much of the series. The Jesse Stone television series, featuring Tom Selleck, portrayed a good character but lacked the depth of the written character and his turmoil.

Sunny Randall Series

Parker wrote six books in the Sunny Randall series, featuring a private investigator, like Spenser a former cop, who works South Boston and is cut a bit from the Spenser cloth. She also shares the Jesse Stone attachment to a first spouse.

The Rest of Parker’s Career

Having all of these series set in the Boston area allows the main characters to each make appearances in each other’s books and to share many of the same recurring police and criminal characters. At one point, Stone and Randall even date.

After Parker’s death (at his desk, writing a novel), his family took the unprecedented step of continuing all of his series, with different authors selected to advance the storylines. Ace Atkins has done a good job with Spenser, especially in capturing the Spenser-Hawk dialog and relationship, and has written five new installments in the series.  Reed Farrel Coleman has been masterful with Jesse Stone, growing and changing the character and the storyline in ways Parker might not have envisioned. And sports journalist Mike Lupica contributed a new Sunny Randall installment last year.

All of the series are worthwhile but Spenser is the place to start.  You can check in with the latest books or just check one out mid-series. Each story is a standalone plot even though characters and some plotlines do continue throughout.

Parker even continued the Marlowe series after Raymond Chandler’s death, making Marlowe — like all of the Parker characters — outlive his creator.

Next time we will go into the wild with some forest ranger characters.

What About You?

Have you read any of Parker’s series? Which is your favorite? Where do you think is the best starting point with this author? We love to here from you, so share your thoughts in the comments!

2 responses to “The Art of Mysteries- Robert B. Parker

  1. Art Bushnell

    Helen Hunt had asked Parker to create the Sunny Randall character. She saw herself playing the detective in a project that was never finalized. But readers liked the character so much, the publisher asked Parker to continue the series.

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