My father, much to his puritanical disgust, but to the delight of his wife and son, used to receive regular unsolicited boxes of new books from Penguin. Mum and I would fall upon these as gifts from the gods. How good the smell, the feel. How crisp. How booky. In truth they usually tended to be a little disappointing (too many Pelicans perhaps) but on one occasion there was a sizeable number of green-backed crime novels. Three of these were by Robert B. Parker, the first three novels of his Spenser series, The Godwulf Manuscript (1973), God Save the Child (1974), and Mortal Stakes (1975). I don’t remember if I started there and then, but once I started reading, I read them all at once. And I have been reading Robert B. Parker ever since. And now the damn fool man has died.
Spenser was wisecracking but not really hard-boiled. Which is to say that there was never any sense of his being alienated in any way from the society in which he moved and lived. He was not Philip Marlowe. He had, after all, two terrific sidekicks: his friend Hawk, smooth, a killer, utterly loyal, ethically questionable, and Susan Silverman, smart, sexy, Jewish, to whom he was all but married. She it was who provided a kind of chorus. Through her we knew how good a man Spenser was. Spenser with an S oaf course, like Edmund Spenser, the Elizabethan poet and author of the chivalric epic, The Fairy Queen. Spenser is, in short, a knight, and never less than thoroughly chivalrous.
I used to save up my Spenser fix for aeroplanes or lonely hotel stays. I knew I would be in the best of hands. There was something in the warmth of this character, in the friendships that he had, which was utterly reassuring. He was also very good company.
So thank you very much, RBP. You made my life richer. RIP. Enjoy those heavenly doughnuts.
New York Times Obituary here.