Why it’s a crime not to love Robert B. Parker

On July 27, 2014

I cannot remember when I first read a Robert B. Parker novel.  All I know is that, once I found him, he was all I read for a while. One book after another. Now, I have a couple by my bed and if I’m ever stuck for reading matter I pick one up. Doesn’t matter if I’ve already read it. The writing is pure joy. If you enjoy crime and you’ve not yet discovered the late Parker, you really must.

Why I love his work:

1. He keeps it simple. There is nothing complicated about his stories. They unfold in a straightforward style that is funny, smart and engaging.  It can be tempting to think it’s easy to write like this but only a master like Parker can actually do it well.

2. He draws people so well. The characters in Parker’s books feel like real people. Spenser, Hawk, Jesse Stone. I care about them because they’re good and decent and have integrity.  I  like the fact that Spenser is witty, self-deprecating, and has a fondness for doughnuts. It’s heartwarming that he is in love with Susan and doesn’t mind saying so. If my life was in danger I would want Spenser on my side, preferably with Hawk watching his back. If I worked in law enforcement I would want Jesse Stone as my boss.

3. Dogs. Parker often appears in his book jacket photos with his dog and his love of dogs is there in his work. Spenser is a big softy where his dog is concerned, Jesse Stone too. I also happen to love dogs.

4. Dialogue.  Like Elmore Leonard, Parker does great dialogue. Sometimes, all you get for several pages at a time is dialogue.

In Back Story, Spenser tells Hawk,  ‘I’m working on a case. You’re my trusty sidekick.’

Hawk: ‘Long as I don’t have to call you Kemo Sabe.’

Spenser: ‘Ever wonder what that meant?’

Hawk: ‘I always thought it meant Paleface Motherfucker.’

Spenser:  ‘That’s probably it.’

5. Names: Parker comes up with names like Abner Fancy,  Suitcase Simpson, Boo and Zel. In Back Story there is a Malone, which pleases me no end, even if he is a bad guy.

6. His investigative approach. I am more interested in people than complex procedural details like the ins and outs of forensics, pathologist’s reports and so on. ‘I didn’t do a lot of scientific clues,’ Spenser says in Sixkill. ‘Since nearly all the crimes I looked into were done by humans, it followed that nearly all the clues I ever came up with were human. Something someone said or didn’t say or didn’t do, or even how they acted …’

7. That moustache of his.

Reading Robert B. Parker makes me wish I could write a fraction as well as he did and I’m not ashamed to say I emulate him in every way (apart from the moustache). I don’t claim to come close but am grateful for the inspiration his work gives me.

Thank you, Robert.

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