Tuesday, January 19, 2010


It was a quiet, gray day that brought a slow, silent snow and sad news...an icon in the world of American crime fiction has suddenly passed away. Robert Parker died while sitting at his desk in Cambridge yesterday, no doubt keeping up a writing schedule that had him turning out up to three novels a year; two will follow him posthumously into 2010.

The world knows Robert Parker best for his Boston-based detective series "Spenser," which became the 80's TV series "SPENSER FOR HIRE" starring the late Robert Urich.
I will never forget the first time I saw him, sitting at the bar at The Harvest restaurant in Harvard Square, usually alone, grabbing a bite or a drink, chatting up the bartender or whoever was around. I would eat there three or four times a week, racing in, in between newscasts. I recognized him and was always too shy to say hello. His hardboiled fictional world was so beyond me; but he'd smile, and I'd smile back and after years, we'd even say hello. Then he had a serious heart attack and though I barely knew him, I dropped him a note. His apparent warmth made me feel like I could take the liberty. Many years later he was kind enough to remember, and even sweeter to mention it over cocktails in his library. By then I'd gotten to know him a bit better. Bob was a wit and a flirt. He was intellectual and prolific. He had done his PhD on detective fiction and wrote 65 books; he managed to drop my name into one of them which flattered me no end.

The last time I saw Robert Parker, I was interviewing him onstage in front of a live audience at the Boston Film Festival where he was being honored for a critically acclaimed western based on his novel APPALOOSA. He and his vivacious wife Joan were generous supporters of the arts and many local charities, and hosted wonderful dinners in their unusual home--his and hers: she lived up, he lived down, but they were inseparable. Joan was in the audience that night, and they cheered as he proudly called her to stand, acknowledging her as his inspiration, his muse in a world where people can barely spell. I will miss him, as will we all who were warmed by his good humor, intelligence, and heart all these years.

Good night...
and stay tuned.

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