The “Spenser Novels”

Robert B. Parker, the “Spenser Novels”

Reviewed by the Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

Robert B. Parker inherited the position of the “Dean of American Crime Fiction” from such respected writers as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. The “hardboiled” American private eye is carried through Sam Spade, Lew Archer, and now Spenser, a thinking man’s tough detective. Parker’s writing reflects his life. He and his character both lived in Boston, both served in the military in Korea, both were in the sport of boxing, and both have remained loyal to the woman that each has fallen deeply in love with. Spenser worked as a police officer until his smart-alec approach got him fired. Now he is a private investigator.
Spenser often keeps nosing into problems, disturbing people, until someone attempts to stop him and the bad guys get discovered. He is not a “Holmes” type of detective who uncovers dozens of facts from observation or forensic science. Spenser asks questions, sits in long boring stakeouts, and roughs up people if necessary. As Raymond Chandler wrote, the private eye is “a man …who is not himself mean… tarnished nor afraid… He must be a complete man… a common man and yet an unusual man… He must be a man of honor… the best man in his world…” This describes Spenser. The gallant knight who must right wrongs and stand for something, whatever it is, and to defend it to the end. Parker’s books are simple criminal stories that sometimes get complicated. Between scenes of action, the characters, usually Spenser and his girl friend, Susan Silverman, hold conversations that become moral and philosophical debates.
The people who are most important in Spenser’s life are Susan and Hawk. Susan is more than just a person with whom Spenser falls in love. Susan meets the detective early in the series and develops as both a sounding board and adviser for Spenser.
Hawk is a unique character. He was Spenser’s opponent in the author’s early books. Parker initially included him to be the “dark side,” compared to Spenser’s good knight approach. He wanted Hawk to be ominous, deadly and scary. Parker succeeded. As the series progressed, Hawk becomes a friend to Spenser, and they help each other in many of the books.
Spenser novels are a quick read with short chapters. The stories flow through dialogue. The plots are not “who-dunn-its.” The storyline is often straightforward and simple, avoiding intricate and twisted scenarios. Some readers may not like the language, issues, force and violence found in some parts of the stories. Others will fall for this brave white knight- a philosopher who is trying to make his world a better place because that is the right thing to do. We recommend the Spenser novel series. Some of the books we read and discussed: Early Autumn, Looking for Rachel Wallace, Double Deuce, Thin Air, Widow’s Walk, Now and Then, Sixkill, and Rough Weather

Key Ideas from different club members:
Good writer, sometimes uses colorful language; Funny, witty, well written; Smooth reading, will read more of them; Chapters are shorter, a lot of dialogue keeps things moving; Easy read; Not my favorite author; Wanted to find out more about Spenser, but my book didn’t spend enough time on him; I was not impressed.

The Club Members rating of Robert B. Parker and his Spenser books:
(Pat Kuna, Karen Miller, Sharon Shaffer, {Julie Shultz}, Bill Simmons, Lynn Simmons, Helen Skalski, Barb Swanson, Linda Troll, and Patty Tullis)

Club’s Average Rating: 3.4 of 5 Rating Range: 2 to 5

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