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Friday, January 29, 2010

Thank You Mr. Parker

I've been reading Robert Parker's (NY Times Obit) Spenser novels for over 30 years (yeah, I know how to spell his character's name with an 's').

I started reading them when I lived in Boston and saw one of the books at John Tannheimer's house. Turns out John's mother lived in the same Massachusetts town as Mr. Parker and his wife and the book was signed by him.

I read the book and have been reading them ever since. No big deal really. Just a character in a book series. However . . .

If my second child had been a boy, he would have been called Spenser. My sister and brother-in-law liked the idea/name so much, they did name a son Spenser.
Early in the series Mr. Parker would have Spenser mention his favorite beer of the moment and oddly enough that would become mine as well. I still buy Rolling Rock beer in the summer and usually think of Spenser. I learned about champagne from Spenser's sidekick Hawk (Hawk would not appreciate being referred to as 'sidekick') who preferred it to all other libations.
Dozens of times I would start off a great vacation by purchasing the latest Spenser and read it during the trip. I considered it a treat and a respite. And it always felt like I was going home a bit. They were a dependable constant in a ever changing life landscape.

Other than that, Spenser, is/was everything I am not but at times might want to be. I think that's kinda what heroes in the movies and books tend to be.

Of course I never met Mr. Parker, but have always assumed that his Spenser character exhibited many traits that Parker most admired and that many of the twists and turns of Spenser's life reflected various developments and realizations in Mr. Parker's own. I could be wrong but that was the impression.

More than anything else, Parker gave me an on-going reference of a normal man with special skills that lived in a world filled with truths that somehow rarely worked out the way people wanted them to work out. And Spenser's mission was always to be the person who helped them work those things out. He was the guy people came to when they had no one else or when all the others had failed them. He stood up for people who could not stand up for themselves. And often he went into places where those people had no hope of emerging unharmed. Yeah, hero stuff.

I remember when I first started reading Sherlock Holmes stories. I mentioned it to Gregory Ross and he said, "I'm so jeolous of you. I remember when I read those stories the first time . . . how special and exciting they were . . .". Well I've been reading the Spenser stories for the first time for over 30 years and now I guess I'm about done. Quite a fun ride and a great gift to me.

Thanks Mr. Parker.

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