I know in certain circles it was almost obligatory to dismiss him. And, distressingly, some of the most petty sniping came from a small but vocal slew of his writing contemporaries who -- just coincidentally, of course -- never achieved his commercial success. The backlash began about the time he won an Edgar for THE PROMISED LAND back in 1977 and has continued ever since. It'll be interesting to see the response (and the backtracking from the sour grapes brigade) in the next few days.
But his influence on the P.I. genre (and the mystery genre as a whole) over the last thirty or forty years is undeniable. Anyone who says differently hasn't been paying attention.
I don't think anyone can deny Parker's influence on the mystery genre. What we note is that his influence was negative. His success with these sappy stories encouraging publishers, who all follow the crowd, to publish mainly sappier and more sentimental and absurd detective fiction. At this point nearly the entire genre has lost its edge. It is hard to find modern detective fiction in which the main character is struggling with some corny emotional problem, most of them fantastic. I recently read a book about a female detective overwhelmed by her ability to instinctively know where murdered bodies were buried. This occurred after she was struck by lighting. Her side-kick is a punk with facial piercings who, at 21, is able to order policemen around in such a way that they actually do what he tells them to. I blame the fact that books like this find a publisher on the success of Robert B. Parker. I'm sorry he's dead, but he reduced detective fiction to the
lowest common denominator.
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