Feb 142013
 

No, that's not the name of a high-powered law firm. It's a summary of a book that may be a bit off the regular reading path of my visitors here. It's a collection of new essays by some of today's best writers of P.I. mysteries about another very important writer, the late Robert B. Parker, creator of the Boston P.I., Spenser. The book, "In Pursuit of Spenser: Mystery Writers on Robert B. Parker and the Creation of an American Hero", is edited by Otto Penzler, of the Mysterious Press and the Mysterious Bookshop.

Readers of this blog know that I don't write about hard-boiled P.I. books very often - they're really not my speed. But it is also undeniably true that Robert B. Parker has been tremendously influential on many of today's authors who are in what might properly be called the Hammett-Chandler-Parker tradition. The table of contents of "In Pursuit of Spenser" includes familiar names such as Ace Atkins (who has been chosen to continue the Spenser series), Lawrence Block, Dennis Lehane, Max Allan Collins, Parnell Hall and S. J. Rozan. There are essays on different aspects of Parker's skills, Spenser's character and about some of the other regulars in the series. There's a good introduction from Otto Penzler. And there's a bonus treat: "Spenser: A Profile," originally written by Parker for the Mysterious Bookshop, now available to a wider readership.

"In Pursuit of Spenser" has been nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Critical/Biographical this year by the Mystery Writers of America. It has been published by the Smart Pop imprint of the alliteratively-named Ben Bella Books, which was kind enough to provide me with a copy for this review. If you enjoy Spenser, or if you merely want to learn more about an important author in the wider mystery field, you will enjoy this book.

Oct 102012
 
The last time I felt like this reading a book was when I was reading The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais.
When I read that debut of PI Elvis Cole I was so pleased to see someone understood the greatness of Robert B. Parker's Spenser series but managed to give it his own twist. Through the years Crais developed his own voice and Cole became more and more unique. That bodes well for the future of James Phoenix and Fenway Burke.
In this novel we follow PI Fenway Burke's defeat at the hands of a dangerous assassin and his return in a way that reminded me of Spenser's defeat at the hands of the Grey Man (in Small Vices). There's also his meeting with Harvard lawyer Megan who gives Susan Silverman a run for her money when it comes to intelligence.
The surprises here are that they actually get married and start a family, taking the idea of the Spenser series (a tough guy involved in a steady relationship with an intelligent woman) to the next level.
I really enjoyed how Fenway schooled himself to be more of an intellectual equal to Megan.
There's a few Hawk-like guys in here as well, Ax and . They're not Pike or Hawk yet, but I'm sure they'll grow on me in the novels to come. I do think I like Fenway's dogs better than Pearl.
I liked the Spenser references that will appeal to the hardcore fans, like a Starbucks versus Dunking Donuts discussion for instance.
One of my favorite books this year... Get it here.
Mar 032012
 

Whoops. I fell asleep thinking about a topic for today’s post. That doesn’t sound promising, does it? So. It’s late and I’ll be brief. And appropriately, I’ll take about midnight inspiration.

Most of us keep an ink pen and paper on the nightstand next to a phone in order to write down a message for someone else or a reminder or a telephone number. It’s a holdover from a bygone, primitive age, but it’s still a handy one. And for writers, it’s a method by which we can preserve that random idea, that bit of dream world flotsam or jetsam, which we write down at 3:16 AM, when it seems so clear, so brilliant, so worthy of preserving, an transform it the next day into what will no doubt become the spring board for a franchise on the order of Spenser or Dave Robicheaux or Raylan Givens. The problem which occurs more often than not, however, is that upon awakening, one discovers that the phrase, hurriedly scrawled on that piece of paper, turns out to be something on the order of “guy robs bank.”

If dream ideas worked, I would be James Patterson or something like them. I have heard apocryphal tales of unnamed authors who transformed such hastily scribbled nocturnal notes into literary gold. I’m not sure if they are true. Michael Mann, the story goes, was wide awake in his office, seated at his desk, when he wrote down the phrase “MTV COPS” on a notepad. It was the beginning of Miami Vice. I’ve written down such gems as “nosebleed” and “empty rooms” and “she’s a rabbit.” When I turn one of those feathers into gold, you’ll hear about it here first.

So…have you ever written anything down into the dead of night that turned into a novel or story over the course of the following several weeks and months? If not, can and will you share some of the phrases that seemed like such a great idea in the dead of night, but could not withstand the light of day?

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