Thursday, June 12, 2008

Now & Then - Robert B. Parker

Robert B. Parker’s sort of on probation with me. I still read the Spenser books and the Jesse Stone books, but I’ve been tempted to give up on both series. However, I just read NOW AND THEN, the Spenser novel from last year, and I thought it was one of the best entries in that series in a while, so I guess I’ll keep reading them, at least for the time being.

Parker almost lost me early on in this one when he goes on about Spenser and Susan eating cold plum soup. I stuck with it, though, and was glad I did. The plot doesn’t matter all that much. Spenser’s hired to investigate some stuff. A couple of people get killed. Spenser takes it personally and goes after the killer. It all ties in, at least emotionally, with the time many years ago when Spenser and Susan split up for a while. But what I liked is the fact that Spenser quotes from THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, one of my favorite films. Also – and this is the clencher for me – there’s a brief reference to George Harmon Coxe’s character Flashgun Casey. Any writer who throws in something like that, knowing that it’s probably going to go right past most of his readers, is aces with me, cold plum soup and all.


Randy Johnson said...

I can't really define why I continue to read and enjoy Parker's books.
It could be like an old friend that comes to visit once in a while. You're not close, but you enjoy the visit nonetheless. I don't know.
That said, I mostly read them from my local library and the few(maybe a dozen from his three series) that I own were bought from used book sites.

Fred Blosser said...

As a matter of personal taste, I thought the series peaked 20+ years ago with VALEDICTION. (As I recall, Barry Malzberg in a "Mystery Scene" critique thought it jumped the shark with the next book after that, CATSKILL EAGLE.)I stayed with Spenser for the next 2 or 3 books after EAGLE but gradually lost interest. I've picked up a few of the titles since then but none of them really grabbed me. I'll occasionally re-read with enjoyment the various earlier entries between PROMISED LAND and VALEDICTION.

James Reasoner said...

I think it was EARLY AUTUMN that put me off the Spenser series for several years. Then I picked up a copy of PASTIME, read it and enjoyed it enough to go back and catch up on the others. I've read all of them since then. I think the series went through a real slump about a dozen or so books back, with characters changing names in the middle of the book, big plot holes, and other indications that Parker wasn't really paying attention as he wrote them. They've sharpened up some since then.

Anonymous said...

I agree, James. The last few are tighter. Parker also seems to be shifting away from the realistic aging of Spenser (who fought in the Korean Conflict) and Susan, to playing them at Forever 49. Wonder if he'll ever officially end the series?

David Cranmer said...

I think Parker went in too many directions with Sunny Randall, Spenser, and Jesse Stone. It is fun, though, that the series are overlapping each other. The Tom Selleck Jesse Stone films kind of rejuvenated my interest in all things Parker. They are very well done TV movies.