Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Parker

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 19 May 2002

At 03:06 PM 5/15/02 -0700, you wrote: Hawk in
>particular seems straining to burst out of the
>straitjacket he's in and Susan's such a bitch that
>it's impossible for me to read about her any more. She
>doesn't come across as strong, just as a mystical
>spoiled brat.

Hi Sally,

I have to admit that I haven't seen much use for the character of Susan Silverman in Parker's writing for some time now, even though initially she was a breath of fresh air. As for Hawk, I think he was (also initially) intended to be the dark half of Spenser, the Satan to Spenser's Lucifer, doing the things that Spenser sees need doing, but refuses to do because he's the sort of person Hawk lovingly terms a "boy scout". In the late 70s a tall, well-muscled black man with a shaved head in the age of afros was also "cutting edge", I guess, but as time has passed, Spenser has become more ruthless, and Hawk has seemed superfluous at times.

Look at one of the most acclaimed books in the Spenser series, "A Catskill Eagle" for an example of the superfluity of both Susan and Hawk. Susan loves Spenser. Susan feels trapped. Susan leaves Spenser, but doesn't really leave him behind. Susan falls for the ne'er-do-well son of some obscenely rich and shady guy out on the west coast. Susan gets in trouble. Susan calls Hawk. Hawk gets in trouble. Susan sends Spenser a message saying Hawk's in trouble and so is she and she loves Spenser. Stage is set.

Spenser goes and gets Hawk out of jail using illegal means to do so. They're on the run, looking for Susan, who apparently can't make up her mind whether she is strong enough to leave this new boy toy for the good old, safe/but not safe Spenser.

Woman in jeopardy? Susan Silverman? That's certainly a step back from the way she was when she first entered the Spenser universe. The Hawk of the early Spenser books wouldn't need rescuing either, and not to give away the ending for those who have not read it, but Spenser doing the killing he does, the way he does alone at the end of the book goes competely against the sort of character he was in the early books.

Don't get me wrong, I for one am happy to have seen how Spenser's character has evolved and filled out over the course of the series, but his evolution into something more full-bodied, more "human", less white knight, more everyman (a tough, smart, funny everyman, granted) seems to have come at the expense of some pretty interesting supporting characters. How does one avoid this sort of thing? I am not entirely sure. Parker seems to have tried to avoid turning Hawk and Susan into caricatures of themselves at least in part by introducing new, semi-recurring characters like Teddy Sapp
(the gay southern ex-cop from both "Hugger Mugger" and "Pot-Shot") to play foil to Spenser, or for Spenser to play foil to them. I think Parker has been more successful in this attempt with respect to Hawk than with respect to Susan, because Hawk is still awfully fun to experience, especially when driving somewhere bantering with Spenser.

Again, Parker's strength is his dialogue, and it shines between the two halves of the same "demonic avenging angel" Spenser/Hawk. Perhaps Susan really had nowhere to go but down, but she certainly has been more of an afterthought ever since she came back to Spenser in "A Catskill Eagle".

Just my two cents.;)


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