Spending Time With A Tough Guy
The late Robert B. Parker was the creator of Spenser.
Spenser, as almost needs no telling, wears the mantle of a mythical verray parfit (not quite so gentil) knyght, the one good deed in a naughty world, a hero of the wild and lawless West, the compass needle pointing clear North for tough guy morality, all wrapped up in the persona of a Bostonian gumshoe.
Spenser was also part of a trinity – he came accompanied, in most books, by Hawk, a seriously charismatic, enigmatic which-side-of-the-law-is-he-really-on black American. A famous friendship really. And then there was Susan Silverman, Spenser’s far more than squeeze. Unlike most of the PIs who are Spenser’s precursors, he does not have a fatal predilection for a vamp who will double cross him or let him down, nor does he have a little woman waiting at home whilst he strays. He has his match in psychologist Susan. The relationships with Hawk, Susan and of course Pearl the Wonder Dog deepen over the years.
And there is a lot of humour.
This enjoyable book, which I received as an ARC, in digital version (and very well done too) is a collection of essays about Parker and his creations by noted other crime and detective writers. Topics include essays on being a fellow Bostonian writer (Dennis Lehane); an analysis of the wit and humour in Parker’s writing (Parnell Hall); a perceptive essay on readers’ uneasy relationship with Susan Silverman (S.J.Rozan); Gary Phillips analysis of why we all love Hawk; Spenser the gourmet cook (Lyndsay Faye); an examination of how Parker challenged racism and homophobia when such attitudes were barely addressed in popular fiction (Brendan DuBois)
I liked the comfortable well worn slipper feel of Parker. This was formula writing, but well done formula writing, and moreover, writing which subliminally slotted in some quite deep ideas about honour, loyalty, friendship, to thine own self be true-ship, in an easy way.
I am not in any way an aficionado of the genre. I was steered to Chandler, and to Parker, and that’s rather where it starts and stops for me. I think most people who had or have affection for Robert B Parker’s writing will enjoy these essays.
Though I do wish there had been a seriously thoughtful essay about Pearl the Wonder Dog. She deserved a chapter!
ARC courtesy of Smart Pop Books and NetGalley