When I came to work at the library in 2005, I had never read a Robert B. Parker novel. (I know, amazing that they hired me, isn't it?) But the constant exposure to the latest bestsellers has broadened my reading selections considerably. I have read everything he has written - in all four series - since 2005. With the recent news of Mr. Parker's death, I mourned the loss of such a talent, and especially of my favorite gumshoe, Spenser.
By the luck of the draw, I needed to pick a book from the library's Mystery Section, Shelf 30 in order to complete the Take-A-Chance Challenge. Be still my heart! - an entire shelf of Robert Parker novels. I opted to look for the oldest one and learn how Spenser began. That turned out to be Promised Land, published in 1976 and No. 5 in the series. What a hoot! On page one I discovered this gem: "He had on a pale green leisure suit and a yellow shirt with long pointed collar, open at the neck and spilling onto the lapels of the suit," and I knew this story was going to be a "blast from the past". 1976 was the year of our first date - the prom, to which Dave wore a powder blue leisure suit and a shirt with a long pointed collar. Sorry folks. I searched for a picture of us to show you what fashion icons we were, but no luck. However, for those of you too young to remember 1970's apparel, his suit (not to mention his hair) looked something like this:
Between giggles at the dated clothing styles and slang, I learned a lot about Spenser. Sometimes when an author writes a series around a character, it feels like nothing more than a convenience for the author - no need to create new characters, background or surroundings - and there is no growth. However, Spenser and his crew have evolved. It's not necessarily a real-time aging - Spenser and Susan were approximately age forty in 1976 (based on references to "middle age" and that Spenser and Hawk had boxed together twenty years earlier) and they appear to have aged no more than 10-15 years in the thirty-four years since then - but it is a discernable development of their relationships, experience and maturity.
Mr. Parker's writing has become more sparse over the years - and he wasn't overly-wordy to begin with - which is one of the things I love about his books. He manages to convey feelings, attitudes and situations with a minimum of extraneous details, yet even jumping into the series somewhere around book #33 as I did, I never felt cheated or lost. As I sit here trying to explain this amazing ability, I realize that if I could grasp it I would be the one with 45 bestselling books, so you'll have to discover it and dissect it on your own.
This book marked the end of my reading for the Take-A-Chance Challenge here at the library (with 5 weeks to spare!) but it won't be the end of my journey with Spenser. My plan is start at the beginning and make my way through the entire series. I'll keep you posted.