Robert B. Parker
|Robert B. Parker|
photo from Manchester Library
|Born||Robert Brown Parker
September 17, 1932
|Died||January 18, 2010
|Genres||Detective fiction, Western fiction|
|Spouse(s)||Joan Hall Parker (1956 – his death)|
Robert Brown Parker (September 17, 1932 – January 18, 2010) was an American crime writer. His most famous works were the novels about the private detective Spenser. ABC television network developed the television series Spenser: For Hire based on the character in the mid-1980s; a series of TV movies based on the character were also produced. His works incorporate encyclopedic knowledge of the Boston metropolitan area. Parker was 77 when he died of a heart attack at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts; discovered at his desk by his wife Joan, he had been working on a novel. The Spenser novels have been cited by critics and bestselling authors such as Robert Crais, Harlan Coben and Dennis Lehane as not only influencing their own work but reviving and changing the detective genre.
Parker was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1956 Parker married Joan H. Parker, whom he claimed to have met as a toddler at a birthday party. They spent their childhoods in the same neighborhood.
After earning a BA degree from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, Parker served as a soldier in the US Army Infantry in Korea. In 1957, he earned his Master's degree in English literature from Boston University and then worked in advertising and technical writing until 1962. Parker received a PhD in English literature from Boston University in 1971. His dissertation, titled "The Violent Hero, Wilderness Heritage and Urban Reality," discussed the exploits of fictional private-eye heroes created by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross Macdonald.
Parker's popular Spenser novels are known for his characters of varied races and religions. According to critic Christina Nunez, Parker's "inclusion of [characters of] other races and sexual persuasions" lends his writings a "more modern feel". For example, the Spenser series characters include Hawk and Chollo, African-American and Mexican-American, respectively, as well as Spenser's Jewish girlfiend, Susan, various Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese, a gay cop, Lee Farrell, and even a gay mob boss, Gino Fish. The homosexuality of both his sons gives his writing "[a] sensibility," Ms. Nunez feels, "[which] strengthens Parker's sensibility [toward gays]." In 1985 Spenser was made into a successful television series, Spenser for Hire which starred Robert Urich, Avery Brooks and Barbara Stock.
Parker created female detective Sunny Randall at the request of actress Helen Hunt, who wanted him to write a part for her to play. He wrote the first book, and the film version was planned for 2000, but never materialized. However, his publisher liked the character and asked him to continue with the series.
Another figure created by Parker is Jesse Stone, a troubled former LAPD detective, who starts a new career as a police chief in a small New England town. Between 1997 and 2010, he wrote nine novels featuring Jesse Stone, eight of which have been adapted as TV movies by CBS starring Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone.
Aside from crime writing, Parker also produced several Western novels, including Appaloosa, and children's books. Although Parker's work has not been the topic of much literary criticism, his Westerns have received critical attention. Chris Dacus, who has written on other authors like Cormac McCarthy, has written of the intellectual depth and importance of Parker's Westerns in The Stoic Western Hero: Robert B. Parker's Westerns. In 1994 Parker collaborated with Japanese photographer Kasho Kumagai on a coffee table book called Spenser's Boston, exploring the city through Spenser's "eyes" via high quality, 4-color photos. In addition to Parker's introduction, excerpts from several of the Spenser novels were included.
Parker and his wife had two sons, David and Daniel. Originally, the character of Spenser was to have been called "David," but Parker didn't want to appear to favor one of his sons over the other. Parker therefore omitted Spenser's first name entirely, and, to this day, the first name of the fictional Spenser remains unknown.
Parker and his wife Joan separated at one point but then came to an unusual arrangement: she lived on one floor of a large townhouse, he on another, and they shared the others. This living arrangement is mirrored in Spenser's private life: his girlfriend, Susan, had an aversion to marriage and living together full-time. Living separately suited them both, although they were fully committed to each other. Explaining the arrangement in an interview on CBS "Sunday Morning", Parker said, "I want to make love to my wife for the rest of my life, but I never want to sleep with her again."
He had a great fondness for dogs, including German Pointers. Dogs were included in his Spenser stories, aging along with the character and appearing in the ongoing series of novels.
Parker received three nominations and two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. He received the first award, the "Best Novel Award" in 1977, for the fourth novel in the Spenser series, Promised Land. In 1990 he shared, with wife Joan, a nomination for "Best Television Episode" for the TV series B.L. Stryker; however, the award went to David J. Burke and Alfonse Ruggiero Jr. for Wiseguy.
In 2002 he received the Grand Master Award Edgar for his collective oeuvre.
In 2008 he was awarded the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Jesse Stone novels will be written by longtime friend and collaborator, Michael Brandman.
- Spenser novels will be written by journalist/writer Ace Atkins.
- Sports Illustrated Training with Weights (with John R. Marsh) (1974) ISBN 1-56800-032-4
- Three Weeks in Spring (with Joan H. Parker) (1982) ISBN 0-395-26282-8
- A Year At The Races (with Joan H. Parker) (1990) ISBN 0-670-82678-2
- Spenser's Boston (with Kasho Kumagai) (1994) ISBN 1-883402-50-6 ISBN 978-1883402501
"Surrogate"' (1991)" A short story published in the crime magazine New Crimes 3 ISBN 0-88184-737-2
- "'Spenser' novelist Robert Parker dies in Cambridge". Boston Herald. Associated Press. 2010-01-19. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
- See Discussion Page
- Geherin, David (c. 1980). Sons of Sam Spade: the private-eye novel in the 70s: Robert B. Parker, Roger L. Simon, Andrew Bergman. Ungar. ISBN 0-8044-2231-1.
- Bryan Marquard (January 19, 2010). "Mystery novelist Robert Parker dies at 77". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 20, 2010.
- Patricia Sullivan (January 20, 2010). "Crime novelist, Spenser creator Robert B. Parker dies at 77". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 20, 2010.
- "His Spenser Novels Saved Detective Fiction" by Tom Nolan, The Wall Street Journal 
- "Robert B. Parker left a mark on the detective novel" by Sarah Weinman, Los Angeles Times 
- Robert B. Parker biography from Litweb.net
- Bruce Weber (January 20, 2010). "Robert B. Parker, the Prolific Writer Who Created Spenser, Is Dead at 77". The New York Times. Retrieved January 20, 2010.
- Jules Older (October 2003). "Robert B. Parker 2003 Interview". Yankee Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-23.
- Author Profile: Robert B. Parker from BookReporter.com
- Christina Nunez. "Robert B. Parker Biography". Barnes and Noble. Retrieved 2010-02-23.
- See nearly the entire Spenser series for Hawk, whose prominence in the plots increases with each book; for Chollo, Stardust, Pot Shot, and Now and Then; Cold Service features Ukrainian and Russian mobsters; and Walking Shadow, which explores Chinese tongs and includes a Chinese-American translator named Mei Ling who has a relationship with Hawk; see Chance for Gino Fish, who also crosses over into the first Jesse Stone novel.
- This was adapted to film in 2008 by Ed Harris, starring Harris (who also directed and co-wrote the screenplay), Viggo Mortensen and Jeremy Irons
- Dacus, Chris. The Stoic Western Hero: Robert B. Parker's Westerns. CDI: 2011. http://www.amazon.com/Stoic-Western-Hero-Westerns-Part-ebook/dp/B006C2C7H4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1378170886&sr=1-1&keywords=chris+dacus
- The Tennessean, 8 March 2009, Arts & Entertainment, p. 11
- Robert B. Parker FAQ Bullets and Beer
- "Edgars" database search for "Grand Master" award at the Mystery Writers of America's website . Retrieved February 2009.
- theedgars.com database . Retrieved February 2009.
- Bryan Marquard (January 20, 2010). "'Spenser' novelist Parker dead at 77". The Boston Globe. Retrieved February 20, 2010.
- Estate of Robert B. Parker (27 April 2011). "The Putnam Press Release".
- Shanahan, Mark; Meredith Goldstein (28 April 2011). "Parker’s series live on". The Boston Globe.
- Estate of Robert B. Parker (9 August 2012). "Facebook post".
- Official site of author
- Spenser at Yahoo! A Yahoo! discussion group for fans of Robert B. Parker
- Robert B. Parker at Internet Book List/Internet Book List :: Home
- Robert B Parker - Daily Telegraph obituary
- "Looking for Robert B. Parker: A Fond Farewell to the Man Who Saved P.I. Fiction," Part I and Part II - The Rap Sheet