A Good Death: Robert B. Parker
After school, I walked about a mile to our tiny local public library to return some books. While I was there, I scanned the shelves quickly for some fresh reading material. I left with three books under my arm, one of them The Professional by Robert B. Parker.
As soon as I returned to my domicile, I switched on my radio to our local NPR station. (I like to listen to “All Things Considered” as I take my evening repast.) I was dismayed to learn that Robert B. Parker had died. No more Spenser novels was my first thought. (Not true, I found out later. At least two more novels are slated for publication in 2010.)
Parker, 77, apparently died at his desk Monday, doing what he loved: writing. A little research turned up several surprising facts about this author with whose work I had become acquainted only during the past decade. First, he had a Ph.D. in English (his thesis was detective fiction). Second, at one time he had been a teacher of college English. And third, he cranked out about three novels per year, writing five to ten pages per day.
I don’t remember the first book of Parker’s I read. I do remember being impressed by his laconic style of writing; he wasted not a word. And unlike Elizabeth George (whose work I deeply admire), I never had to reach for a dictionary while reading one of Parker’s novels. He used ordinary words to tell rather extraordinary—and thrilling—tales.
However, a Los Angeles Times reader cautions: Parker’s novels are not “detective stories.” They are existential inquiries into the shallowness and uncertainty of life. Boston is the stage. He concludes that there are only two, real certainties: Love (Susan) and Friendship (Hawk).
There’s one other certainty: death.
I like to think that I’ll be following Robert B. Parker’s lead, still doing what I love, when I take my last breath.