Sunday, February 07, 2010

Adios, Parker

On January 18, Robert B. Parker passed away (as I'm sure he had always hoped) while writing at his desk. A sudden heart attack, not a fist fight.

I am a huge fan. It may be the case that I've read every word that he ever published, well over fifty books. He sold millions and millions of books, and while that is not the primary proof that he was a great writer, I will tell you he was a good writer. Remember, this is MY blog.

In the last few years, Parker began writing for the "Young Reader" market, and I given my son those two novels, which he enjoyed. As soon as he is old enough, I'll suggest that he begin the "Spenser" series.

I was very sad to hear of Parker's death. He seemed to have a great life, with lots of success, a nice family, and good health. There's no need for me to provide a biography, just go to Wikipedia. His protagonists spoke to me. They were typically morally grounded, quick-witted, and very capable. They cared about what they did. Spenser remains my smart-alec role model. The conflict between his sense of autonomy and his committment Susan (the love of his life, or more succinctly, his "sweet patootie") was the central, yet subtle, theme to the Spenser series.

In fact, personal autonomy was a central theme to all the main characters in the four series (Spenser, Jesse Stone, Sunny Randall, and the newer Appaloosa westerns). Read Parker's bio, and you'll understand why.

Parker had been quoted that he never planned to write books, to be published posthumously, that would "wrap up" his characters' lives. So dying with Parker are the aforementioned Spenser (no first name ever mentioned), Jesse Stone, the police chief of Paradise, Mass; Sunny Randall, a female private detective from Boston; and all the ancillary recurring characters in Parker's books. Described in detail, yet in never too many words, whether well-dressed or in need of a shave, straight or gay, gorgeous or not.

As much as I mourn Parker's passing, I think I mourn the loss of these souls even more. Existing only on paper. Would Spenser and Susan ever marry? Would Hawk ever find his soul? Would Jesse Stone conquer his alcoholism? Would Sunny Randall ever be able to let go of her ex-husband?

Would any of these characters ever age?

So Parker takes with him the promise of more great stories. I will miss him, and I will miss them. Existing only on paper.