Book Review: IN PURSUIT OF SPENSER
It can be argued that Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series has been the most influential mystery series in the last fifty years. He introduced so many tropes to the PI genre, that authors who have never read him (or even claimed to have not cared for his work) have used some of them. In Pursuit Of Spenser, a collection of essays by some of the best mystery writers around, is a fun and smart look at the man, his work, and the art of crime fiction.
Many authors look at specific elements of the Spenser novels. Gourmet cook and author Lindsey Faye shows how Spenser’s feelings are expressed through food. SJ Rozan gives a sharp comentary on controversial girlfriend Susan Silverman. Gary Phillips‘ dissection of bad-ass side-kick Hawk also serves as a great mini-history of black crime fiction. Parenell Hall basically gives a workshop on wisecracks, focusing on the books use of humor.
Two authors take us through some of Parker’s non-Spenser work. Reed Farrel Coleman gives insightful analysis to the Jessie Stone series, linking their roots to westerns. Ed Gorman looks at Parker’s forays into that genre with his take on Gunman’s Rhapsody and the Hitch & Cole series, showing which traditions he utilizes and which ones he bucks.
Even though most of the writers knew Parker in passing at best, many are able to get personal. Jeremiah Healy shares advice he got from the author. Dennis Lehane recalls a night they threatened a ten year old. Ace Atkins, who is continuing the Spenser novels, gives a moving account of how the books served as a compass for becoming a man after his father died.
Even though the essays vary on topic, they are all smart and entertaining. Authors tend to reveal more about themselves and their craft when talking about the work of others. The subjects of Parker and his private eye give them a lot to talk about.