1932 - 2010
I never met Robert B. Parker, although we lived in the same town for many years. I saw him a couple of times - once he was out washing his car in the driveway. He and his family lived in Lynnfield, Mass., the town in which I grew up. Years later my husband, Steve, discovered Spenser. We both read the mysteries...gulped them down, actually, going back to the very first one, The Godwulf Manuscripts. His Smithfield was my Lynnfield. I don't think he changed the names of many places in his books, we used to discuss why he might want to disguise Lynnfield. Then some of his settings made it to Maine, where we lived. One weekend we drove down to Belfast to see if we could discover where he was describing (we did). On at least two weekends, while visiting my family in the Lynnfield/Wakefield/Reading areas, we traced a couple of his jaunts in and around the suburbs of Boston - Middleton, Peabody, up Rte. 114, book description open on my lap while Steve drove.... We went to the Boston bars where Spenser went, giggling over our drinks.
I am extremely saddened to hear of Parker's death on Monday (January 18, 2010) at age 77. He felt like someone I knew. HE was Spenser. I feel horrible for his wife, Joan. It makes me ache, knowing that he was Steve's favorite author, and that Steve read every one of his books through 2000 (and that's a lot of books). It's Parker (and Spenser) that got my son, Brian reading. Other than Hatchet (Paulsen), Brian had never had any interest in reading. The outdoors was calling much too loudly. But he is now a voracious reader of murder mysteries - and it began, shortly after his dad's death - by reading all the Spenser novels, most of which he found on his dad's bookshelf.
Mr. Parker, thanks for the laughs (you must have had a wonderful sense of humor), for the wonderful mysteries, for the gentle tough-guy persona of Spenser....and also for instigating my own trips around Massachusetts and glimpses into other parts of the country, for being the spark that got my kid to read, and for sparking all the talks and sharing and audio-book listening on long car rides that were part of my own married life.
For some informative reading about Robert B. Parker, here are a few websites I checked out this morning:
This was the best - Parker and his son, Dan, singing Moon River. It's really wonderful!
Here's are comments from one of the funniest and clever young adult authors I know - David Lubar.
This site has a huge list of tributes and blogs about Parker.
Here's one of the Boston Globe obituaries, and here's one from the London Telegraph.
And lastly, here's a tribute from fellow Boston author, Dennis Lehane.