Re: RARA-AVIS: the black ice

From: George Upper (
Date: 01 Oct 2001

--- M Blumenthal <> wrote:
> You're right about the order. I just looked at my
> copy of the book which
> listed it third.

Every edition of the Spenser novels I've ever seen lists all the books in order. However, some of them list them starting with the most recent and others starting with THE GODWULF MANUSCRIPT, the first book. The latter arrangement makes some sense to me, being a pretty linear and orderly (my students would read that as "anal retentive") guy, but the latter confuses me no matter how many times I see them that way.

> I do think the action around the world,
> the idea of hunting
> people to get them dead or alive, and most important
> maybe, the addition of
> Hawk helped to distinguish it from many similar p.
> i. series. It's been a
> long time since I read the books, but I do remember
> was Spenser's chief opponent. It's somewhat like
> Hammett writing another Sam
> Spaade novel in which Casper Gutman and Spade become
> allies.

Well, sort of. Hawk is employed by the delightfully named King Powers, along with a guy named Macey or Macy who is sort of an underworld accountant type. Parker uses Macy, who has no code of honor, to differentiate Hawk, who does, from his confederates. However, Hawk does more or less save Spenser at the end of PROMISED LAND at Susan Silverman's urging, because she seems to understand the common bond between the two men. I think it's arguably the best scene Parker ever wrote.

In the
> following three or four books Hawk takes an almost
> superhuman quality. I
> started getting disenchanted when Hawk didn't
> magically appear from nowhere
> at the last minute to save Spenser.

I pretty much agree. I think that after THE WIDENING GYRE (book ten) Parker consciously attempts to make Spenser into a mythical character. He comes back from the dead by sheer will in VALEDICTION (eleven) and reveals in A CATSKILL EAGLE (twelve) that he is "not of woman born"--i.e., that his mother died in an accident and he was taken by C-section after her death. While I love the idea, and I really do, I think Parker does a horrible job of it while simultaneously forgetting the basics of what made Spenser popular AND borrowing heavily from his earlier books until the whole series becomes almost redundant.

Someone on here has said that the series went downhill when Parker started seeing them on television. I don't know if there's a causal relationship there, but the timing is just about right.


===== George C. Upper III, Editor The Lightning Bell Poetry Journal

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