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Tom Chaney: Fare Thee Well, Robert Parker

Of Writers And Their Books: Fare Thee Well, Robert Parker. Tom is saddened that Parker has slipped the bonds of Boston. Yet he gives thanks that there is joy in revisiting Parkerís work and that he may yet try the apple fritters from Spenser's kitchen. This column first appeared 24 January 2010.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Minnesota Dreaming

By Tom Chaney

Fare Thee Well, Robert Parker

Those of you who have been reading these efforts over the past several years must know that I have some favorite writers -- writers who use language well with economy and style.

One of those is Robert Parker.

Just last spring I shared my relish for his Jesse Stone novel, Night and Day.

I have read and re-read his Spenser (spelled like the poet, he notes) novels. Both Spenser and Parker's female detective, Sunny Randall, joined Stone in what was nigh a farewell appearance.

This week comes the news that Parker (1932-2010) has died at 77 in Cambridge, Mass.

His agent announced that death came whilst Parker was at his desk working on another Spenser novel.

Otto Penzler, owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York and a publisher of crime fiction, places Parker "in the line of great American hard-boiled writers that went from Dashiel Hammett to Raymond Chandler to Ross Macdonald. Robert B. Parker is the next great one in that line."

Parker said that early on he was trying to recreate Chandler's Philip Marlow in his Spenser novels. In the 1980's the Chandler estate asked Parker to finish the unfinished Poodle Springs of which Chandler had written only four chapters.

Parker welcomed the chance. Two years later in 1991 he published Perchance to Dream, a sequel to Chandler's The Big Sleep.

He wrote some 60 novels. More than half featured Spenser.

In 1971 Parker earned the doctorate degree from Boston University. He worked as a technical writer and in advertising before he began teaching college English at Northeastern University.

When I wrote of his novel Cold Service, I vowed to replicate Spenser's recipe for apple fritters. I have not done that. Now I must -- in tribute to a decades long relationship between writer and reader.

I am saddened that Parker has slipped the bonds of Boston. Yet I give thanks that there is joy in revisiting his work and that I may yet try the apple fritters and other delights from Spenser's kitchen.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney -

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