Robert B. Parker
Robert B. Parker
|Born||Robert Brown Parker|
September 17, 1932
Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||January 18, 2010 (aged 77)|
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Genre||Detective fiction, Western fiction|
|Spouse||Joan Hall Parker (1956 –2010)|
Robert Brown Parker (September 17, 1932 – January 18, 2010) was an American writer of fiction, primarily of the mystery/detective genre. His most famous works were the 40 novels written about the fictional 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 was also produced. His works incorporate encyclopedic knowledge of the Boston metropolitan area. 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 also wrote nine novels based on the fictional character Jesse Stone, a Los Angeles police officer who moves to a small New England town; six novels based on the fictional character Sunny Randall, a female private investigator; and four Westerns starring the duo Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. The first, Appaloosa, was made into a film starring Ed Harris.
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 wrote his first novel in 1971 while teaching at Northeastern University. He became a full professor in 1976, and turned to full-time writing in 1979 with five Spenser novels to his credit.
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 girlfriend, Susan, various Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese, a gay cop, Lee Farrell, and even a gay mob boss, Gino Fish. The homosexuality of both his sons gave 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.
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 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 was 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, all of which have been adapted as a series of 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. Like Parker's Spenser series, 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.
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 it was never revealed.
Parker and his wife, Joan, separated at one point but then came to an unusual arrangement. They lived in a three-story Victorian house just outside of Harvard Square; she lived on one floor and he on another, and they shared the middle floor. 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 Shorthair Pointers. Dogs were included in his Spenser stories, aging along with the character and appearing in the ongoing series of novels. The dogs were always named Pearl.
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 1983 he received the Maltese Falcon Award, Japan, for Early Autumn. 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.
Parker received the 2002 Joseph E. Connor Memorial Award from the Phi Alpha Tau Fraternity at Emerson College. He was inducted into the fraternity as an honorary brother in Spring 2003.
In 2008 he was awarded the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award.
Joan Parker, the inspiration for the Susan Silverman character in the Spenser series, died June 12, 2013.
Written by Ace Atkins, the Spenser series continued following Parker's death. The Boston Globe wrote that while some people might have "viewed the move as unseemly, those people didn’t know Robert B. Parker, a man who, when asked how his books would be viewed in 50 years, replied: 'Don’t know, don’t care.' He was proud of his work, but he mainly saw writing as a means of providing a comfortable life for his family."
After Parker died the owners of his estate decided, together with Parker's publishers, to continue his series: Jesse Stone, Spenser and Virgil Cole & Everett Hitch.
The Jesse Stone series has been continued, through 2020 with 10 novels, one a year, the first three by Parker's longtime friend and collaborator, Michael Brandman, and the next six by Reed Farrel Coleman,  and a tenth by Mike Lupica in 2020.
The Spenser novels have continued with the one Parker was working on at his death completed by his long time literary agent Helen Brann, and through 2019 with eight others by journalist/writer Ace Atkins.
The Sunny Randall series received a 7th installment titled Blood Feud on November 27, 2018 with an 8th titled Grudge Match scheduled for a May 4, 2020 release. Written by long time friend of Parker, sports journalist Mike Lupica.
- 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
- "'Spenser' novelist Robert Parker dies in Cambridge". Boston Herald. Associated Press. 2010-01-19. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
- 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.
- "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 Archived 2010-02-11 at the Wayback Machine 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.
- The Tennessean, 8 March 2009, Arts & Entertainment, p. 11
- 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. https://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
- Bissonette, Zac (May 12, 2013). "Robert B. Parker is dead. Long live Robert B. Parker!". Boston Globe. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
- "Edgars" database search for "Grand Master" award at the Mystery Writers of America's website . Retrieved February 2009.
- theedgars.com database . Retrieved February 2009.
- Phi Alpha Tau Fraternity . Retrieved November 2016.
- 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.
- 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".
- Ryan Steck (26 March 2018). "Mike Lupica Set To Continue Robert B. Parker's Sunny Randall Series; 'Blood Feud' Due Out In November".
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