"It's tempting to say the Ph.D. didn't have an effect, but it's not so. I think whatever resonance I may be able to achieve is in part simply from the amount of reading and learning that I acquired along the way." -- Robert B. Parker
Robert Brown Parker (September 17, 1932 – January 18, 2010) was an American crime writer. His most famous works were the novels about the private detective Spenser. ABC television network developed the television series For Hire based on the character in the late 1980s; a series of TV movies based on the character were also produced. His works incorporate encyclopedic knowledge of the Boston metropolitan area. Parker was 77 when he died of a heart attack at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts; discovered at his desk by his wife Joan, he had been working on a novel. The Spenser novels have been cited by critics and bestselling authors such as Robert Crais, Harlan Coben and Dennis Lehane as not only influencing their own work but reviving and changing the detective genre.
"'All Our Yesterdays' was unquestionably the best work I have ever done. And the reading public stayed away in droves.""College had little effect on me. I'd have been the same writer if I'd gone to MIT, except I'd have flunked out sooner.""For David Parker and Daniel Parker, with the respect and admiration of their father, who grew up with them.""I didn't have to say it. I just had to write it. It was painful enough.""I got thrown out of school several weeks in my senior year being caught in the girls' dorm. This was 1954, friends. The girls' dorm was off limits. Even to girls, I think.""I had achieved the most important things in my life when I married Joan and had the sons. Given the choice between Joan and the boys, and being a writer, I world give up being a writer without a blink.""I have reached the point where I know that as long as I sit down to write, the ideas will come. What they will be, I don't know.""I really don't know what I am going to do in terms of what a book is going to be about until I actually start writing it!""I think at this stage in my life I have learned that there are any number of things that men will never know, and can never hope to know, about women.""I think finally good writing gets out there, and people like it, and bad writing doesn't. Well, no. Bad writing does get out there 'cause some people like it.""I was on the Oprah Winfrey Show once. It was a really slow news day for Oprah, and there were several of us on 'cause none of us was sufficiently interesting by his or herself.""I write five pages a day. If you would read five pages a day, we'd stay right even.""If you want to write, write it. That's the first rule. And send it in, and send it in to someone who can publish it or get it published. Don't send it to me. Don't show it to your spouse, or your significant other, or your parents, or somebody. They're not going to publish it.""It was not just that Ross Macdonald taught us how to write; he did something much more, he taught us how to read, and how to think about life, and maybe, in some small, but mattering way, how to live.""Joan organizes our social life, and on weekends I follow her around.""My older son who is, I think, here tonight, is forty-one years old. Which is odd because so am I.""Send it to someone who can publish it. And if they won't publish it, send it to someone else who can publish it! And keep sending it! Of course, if no one will publish it, at that point you might want to think about doing something other than writing.""She found me intolerable. But she got to know me, and I wore her down.""Sure, I have advice for people starting to write. Don't. I don't need the competition.""Teaching is too strong a word for whatever it was I did at Northeastern University.""They give me the money, I give them the book. Having input into the adaptation would be kind of like selling a house and coming back three years later and saying, 'Paint it this color!'""This is not a screenplay. I don't do twenty drafts. I'm not going to show this to you until it's published or accepted for publication. You can make whatever suggestions you want, but I probably will ignore them entirely.""Very few of my books are about who stole the Maltese Falcon.""Well, you give me too much credit for foresight and planning. I haven't got a clue what the hell I'm doing.""With so much at stake maybe I'll just leave now.""Would you care to publish this? Sincerely, Robert B. Parker."
Parker was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. On August 26, 1957, Parker married Joan H. Parker, whom he claimed to have met as a toddler at a birthday party. (They spent their childhoods in the same neighborhood.)
Parker and his wife had two sons, David and Daniel T. Originally, Spenser was to have the first name "David," but he didn't want to omit his other son. He removed the first name completely, and, to this day, Spenser's first name remains unknown.
After earning a BA degree from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, Parker served in the US Army in Korea. In 1957, he earned his Master's degree in English literature from Boston University and then worked in advertising and technical writing until 1962. Parker received a PhD in English literature from Boston University in 1971. His dissertation, titled "The Violent Hero, Wilderness Heritage and Urban Reality", discussed the exploits of fictional private-eye heroes created by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald.
Parker wrote his first novel in 1971 while at Northeastern University. He became a full professor in 1976, and turned to full-time writing in 1979 with five Spenser novels to his credit.
Parker's popular Spenser novels are known for his characters of varied races and religions. According to critic Christina Nunez, Parker's "inclusion of [characters of] other races and sexual persuasions" lends his writings a "more modern feel". For example, the Spenser series characters include Hawk and Chollo, African-American and Mexican-American, respectively, as well as his Jewish girlfiend, Susan, various Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese, a gay cop, Lee Farrell, and even a gay mob boss, Gino Fish. The open homosexuality of both his sons gives his writing "[a] sensibility," Ms. Nunez feels, "[which] strengthens Parker's sensibility [toward gays]." In 1985 Spenser was made into a successful television series, Spenser for Hire which starred Robert Urich, Avery Brooks and Barbara Stock.
Parker created female detective Sunny Randall at the request of actress Helen Hunt, who wanted him to write a part for her to play. He wrote the first book, and the film version was planned for 2000, but never materialized. However, his publisher liked the character and asked him to continue with the series.
Aside from crime writing, Parker also produced several Western novels, including Appaloosa, and children's books. In 1994 he collaborated with Japanese photographer Kasho Kumagai on a coffee table book called Spenser's Boston, exploring the city through Spenser's "eyes" via high quality, 4-color photos. In addition to Parker's introduction, excerpts from several of the Spenser novels were included.
Parker and his wife created an independent film company called Pearl Productions, based in Boston. It is named after their German short-haired pointer, Pearl.
Parker received three nominations and two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. He received the first award, the "Best Novel Award" in 1977, for the fourth novel in the Spenser series, Promised Land. In 1990 he shared, with wife Joan, a nomination for "Best Television Episode" for the TV series B.L. Stryker; however, the award went to David J. Burke and Alfonse Ruggiero Jr. for Wiseguy.
In 2002 he received the Grand Master Award Edgar for his collective oeuvre.
In 2008 he was awarded the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sports Illustrated Training with Weights (with John R. Marsh) (1974) ISBN 1-568-00032-4
Three Weeks in Spring (with Joan H. Parker) (1982) ISBN 0-395-26282-8
A Year At The Races (with Joan H. Parker) (1990) ISBN 0-670-82678-2
Spenser's Boston (with Kasho Kumagai) (1994) ISBN 1883402506 ISBN 978-1883402501
"Surrogate"' (1991)" A short story published in the crime magazine New Crimes 3 ISBN 0-8818-4737-2