Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Robert B. Parker

4:05 am in Art, Culture, Influential Authors by dakine01

As has often been the case, I do not recall exactly which Robert B. Parker book I first read nor do recall exactly when I first read him but I do know it was a Spenser… book. As I think on it, it may well have been during the run of the TV series, Spenser For Hire (starring Robert Urich). Since I was living outside Boston at the time of the TV series and Spenser… is a “Boston” private investigator, it pretty much makes sense to me that that is when I first started reading Parker’s works.

thin airParker’s wiki intro is fairly straightforward:

Robert Brown Parker (September 17, 1932 – January 18, 2010) was an American crime writer. His most famous works were the novels about the private detective Spenser. ABC television network developed the television series Spenser: For Hire based on the character in the mid-1980s; a series of TV movies based on the character were also produced. His works incorporate encyclopedic knowledge of the Boston metropolitan area.[3] Parker was 77 when he died of a heart attack at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts; discovered at his desk by his wife Joan, he had been working on a novel.[1][4][5] The Spenser novels have been cited by critics and bestselling authors such as Robert Crais, Harlan Coben and Dennis Lehane[6] as not only influencing their own work but reviving and changing the detective genre.[7]

Once I started reading the Spenser… series, I read them all. One of the little things I enjoyed about both watching the Spenser… TV series with Urich and reading the books was I could envision Urich’s voice saying the dialog in the books as I read them. Since Parker was a consultant on that TV series, it made sense for the dialog to track between the books and the TV. After the initial three year run of the Urich series, there were four TV movies starring Urich as Spenser from four of the novels (’93 – ’95). Later there were another three Spenser books made into TV movies starring Joe Mantegna. I have to say that I never was able to see Mantegna as Spenser as easily as I saw Urich but that may well be because of seeing Urich as the character first.

While Spenser is Parker’s most well known character and series, he had three other multi-book series. His next best known is probably Jesse Stone, chief of police in “Paradise”, MA. Jesse Stone is:

…the lead character in a series of detective novels initially written by Robert B. Parker. They were among his last works, and the first series in which the novelist used the third-person narrative. The series consists of nine books, starting with Night Passage (1997) and ending with Split Image (2010), which Parker completed before his death in January 2010 but did not live to see published. The series has been continued by Michael Brandman.[1]

The Jesse Stone character starts out at about 35 years old. A former minor league baseball shortstop, who injures the shoulder of his throwing arm, he was raised in Arizona and California.[2] Having been dumped by his beautiful wife (actress Jennifer Stone), he was asked to resign from his job as a homicide detective for the LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division because of a drinking problem that begins after his divorce.[3] Showing up drunk to an interview for a job as police chief for the small town of Paradise, Massachusetts (loosely based on the real town of Swampscott, Massachusetts), he is hired because the corrupt president of the town board of selectmen (town council) thinks he will be easy to control. He quickly notices that the town is rife with big league crimes, the mob, white supremacists, wildly errant wives and a triple homicide. Stone knows this job will be more difficult than he anticipated. But Stone proves up to the task and makes a corruption case against the town council president and arrests him. The series chronicles Stone’s cases as chief of the Paradise Police Department as well as his struggles with alcohol and his complicated relationship with his ex-wife. He is respected and well liked by the police officers in the town police department. He has a good working relationship and friendship with the State Police Homicide Commander, Captain Healy.

Tom Selleck has starred in a series of TV movies based on the Jesse Stone novels. Wiki does quote Parker as stating:

…that he found the Jesse Stone movies the most accurate television adaptations of his novels, having gone so far to say on his blog that “Tom nails the character”.[4]

Parker had two other book series that I have not followed much, including six books about a pair of old west lawmen, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. He also had six books about a character named Sunny Randall.

Parker was enough of an heir to the old fashioned noir detective story that he was selected by Raymond Chandler’s estate to complete Chandler’s novel Poodle Springs. He was also the writer for a screenplay for the 2003 TV movie Monte Walsh also starring Tom Selleck in the title role. Western writer Jack Schaefer wrote the novel this story came from. If the title is familiar, there was a 1970 movie also titled Monte Walsh starring Lee Marvin based on the same book.
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