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.

Posted on January 19, 2010, in death, Robert B. Parker, writing. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Beautiful tribute! And now, I must go read one of his books…

  2. Thanks for sharing this….try to buy his book and know him better. visiting and saying, have a wonderful day.

  3. I, too, heard about this on NPR. Robert Parker has long been on my “must read” list. I’m sorry I didn’t get to him before he passed.

  4. I’ve never read him, but you’ve got me interested. Very nice tribute.

  5. Sad news about Parker. I have read all of the Spencer novels, and I also enjoyed his Jesse Stone series. Tom Selleck plays this character in the occasional CBS TV movie series.

  6. I’ve read him for over 20 years…..Spenser got me hooked. I wish he’d written something about how Spenser and Hawk became friends. His Jesse Stone mini-series is pretty good too…..I also found his works to be interesting lessons on lifes issues of truth, right vs. wrong and the value of doing the right thing. Readers have lost a master. We lost Tony Hillerman, now Robert Parker. I am thankful for their literary contributions to my life.

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