The death of novelist Robert B. Parker this week leaves a sizeable hole in the suspense-fiction genre, so great was his influence and popularity. For me there was a time when devouring his latest Spenser installment was one of many reasons to look forward to vacation, when I would habitually take a break from heavier stuff and "reward" myself with a fun read.
And a big part of the fun for Spenser fans was the smart$1***$2humor of the protagonist and his indestructible sidekick, Hawk. I got to ask Parker about this when I interviewed him for our How I Write column.
"Spenser says the things you wish you'd said the next day, without a fear of repercussion," Parker told me. "He doesn't care if he gets fired, he's not intimidated by force, not manipulatable by sex. I'm sure everyone would like to have the grand putdown that I thought up at my leisure."
Parker was actually a fairly tough interview on the phone, a bit aloof, and quite confident (and justifiably so), as if he had the whole writing and publishing game down cold (which he did). (I understand he wasn't always like that in interviews, so perhaps I caught him on a bad day, or maybe he didn't like my questions.)
I never bought the contention of some readers that there was some deceptive complexity to his Spenser books. They were tautly written and consistently entertaining suspense novels starring a great series character. That was always enough for me. If they were also completely improbable, so what? It was great escape reading.
You can read the entire How I Write interview with Parker here on WriterMag.com.
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