Thursday, February 18, 2010

Robert B. Parker, RIP

These days when people ask me what my job title is I tell them "Global Detective."
There's a long explanation that involves a South African artist and his Black Box. But the short explanation is I love detection, hard-boiled private eyes, Continental Ops, Sherlock Holmes, Lew Archer.
So today when I was at the San Diego airport waiting to catch a flight to San Francisco and "Rough Weather," a Spenser novel caught my eye, I let it seduce me. I cracked it open while I was waiting to board, read it on the plane, and finished it on the BART ride into town. It was perfect.
A lot's been written over the years about detective fiction, especially the kind that Parker wrote. The writing style. Short sentences. Snappy repartee. Catchy characters with style--and sometimes damaged goods. And plots that are complicated enough to be interesting but not so bizarre as to be improbable. It's detective fiction not science fiction.
People have written about the moral universe, the code that Spenser-like gumshoes live by. That's part of it too.
But what I think I like is that Parker's universe makes sense. The pieces fit together--or they do by the end of the story, when Spenser has put them back together after they got broken.
It's a world--let's call it "Boston"--where good doesn't always triumph over evil. Good even has to learn to co-exist with evil. Sometimes good catches evil, listens to its story and let's it go.
But it's a world where, with Spenser's help, you can decode how it's supposed to work.
And these days, that's a pretty good day's work.
That, a cold beer, a good dog, a beautiful Jewish psychologist, a black wingman who's got your back.
What more do you need when the rest of the world is filled with VUCA--volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.
By the end of a Spenser novel you've got MOWS: meaning, order, wit, and sense.
Robert Parker died a short while ago.
"Goodnight sweet prince." It was good while it lasted.

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