RARA-AVIS: Parker Among the Greats

Gerald So (gso@optonline.net)
Fri, 24 Dec 1999 00:58:35 -0500

Hello, all.

    After Etienne's explanation of his take on Robert Parker, I have to agree. In Spenser, Parker had successfully creating a truly original P.I., a man who was in turns both raw and sensitive without getting too hard (Spillane) or soft (Ross Macdonald).
    Parker's writing was smooth and confident and never pretentious. It mirrored the way Spenser was supposed to be. Then, in the mid-eighties, coincidentally when "Spenser: For Hire" aired on ABC, the books became more commercial. Only in retrospect do I see where Parker stopped trying as hard. Perhaps he felt the series would fill in the blanks for him. Maybe Parker isn't even aware of coasting. There's always a blindspot when it comes to your own writing.
    I find Parker's Jesse Stone series refreshing. Written in the third-person, you can see Parker trying new ways to flesh out a character and show us his story. Conversely, I found FAMILY HONOR to be another case of coasting. The Helen Hunt movie tie-in is again a coincidence. No P.I. worth his salt likes coincidence.
     If Parker had never achieved fame, the Spenser series as a whole would probably be better. Then again, Parker achieved fame precisely because of how well he wrote in the first place.
     I agree with Kevin that, all things considered, Parker has done an admirable job of handing fame to continue to write his series; however, at times, as Etienne mentioned, I feel I've been cheated out of a great writer.
      While I don't believe Parker reached his full potential, I do believe he deserves a spot among the greats, and I'll read him anytime. Hammett's and Chandler's writing declined more steeply than Parker's over a shorter period of time.


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