13 Comments

  1. I love Robert B. Parker. One of my favorite authors and a serious influence on my writing style.

    I haven’t read this book, so I had to skip much of the post, but there’s no doubt that critical reading is one of the best ways to improve. I’ve actually never gone so far as to do a written critique, but I’m sure that’d be even more effective.

    • Hey Stan – Thanks for stopping by. Same here: if I only had two authors to take with me on that proverbial desert island, Elmore Leonard and Robert Parker would be those two (okay, in crime fiction. there are 2 dozen more in other genres. let’s hope I don’t get stranded anytime soon).

      If you’re a Parker fan, Looking for Rachel Wallace is a must-read, I think. And, at just over 200 pages, you’ll burn through it in a couple of hours. Come back and look over my critique when you do; I’d love to know your thoughts!

      • Agreed. Elmore Leonard is so talented. I have trouble really digging all his stuff and getting into his books though because he’s so talented, he makes every character the main character. So, it seems like every book has like four or five (or more) main characters, and I’ve always preferred a simpler antagonist/protaganist format where I can really love one character and hate the other. (I’m probably not explaining this well, but you get my point I hope.)

        And I’d love to read “Looking for Rachel Wallace” next, but I wrapping up my sniper thriller novel, and I’m finishing up an extensive sniper-book binge I’m on. Got to make sure I don’t look stupid in my book.

        But I’ll jump on this as soon as I smoke those and check out your post then.

  2. This was awesome. I loved that you did a critique of a Spencer book. I have pretty much read all of Robert B Parker’s books. They were of immense help when I attended law school ( not with the law bit, but with the I need to escape bit, which I did a lot… seriously, a lot). Same with Lee Child later on, although I am not sentimental about Child at all. Parker has a very special place on my shelves, along with L’Amour and Quinnell. Good memories there.

    I love Spencer as the highly literate goon-looking hero and the wise cracks are what kept me reading. Personally, the relationship between Susan and Spencer at times became tiresome, but that is just me. Oh, and Spencer makes cooking look cool.

    As for writing, I am still too new to have an opinion on whether it will influence me. I love his style as I love a few other writers’ styles. Time will tell.

    This article reminded again of the power of a good book. It can either piss you off or make your day.

    Thanks Matthew.

    • Hi Woelf – Thanks for stopping by and the thoughtful comments, as always. Interesting observation on Lee Child’s work; same here. I love the books (despite their outrageous coincidences), but certainly Spenser & Co. feel more real to me. There’s a part of my brain that assumes I can go up to Boston anytime I feel like and see one of Parker’s characters on the street, they’re so authentic. Not so with Jack Reacher.

      Paker’s style is contagious and–for a writer–almost dangerous. I’ve found myself emulating him almost too much. But there’s a lot to be learned, especially in his treatment/approach to using first person. Fascinating stuff for writing nerds like ourselves. 🙂

      p.s. Thanks so much for the thoughtful review of Assassin on Amazon. For someone who hasn’t written reviews before, you sure know how to put one together!

      • One point on your comment. I emulate Parker, too, but I’m not sure why that would be dangerous. Even if you got labeled as a Parker wananbe, wouldn’t you still have incredible sales and be super popular? Which frankly, I’m down with… : )

      • Hey Stan – Oh, I’m down with selling millions of books, you betcha. Emulating Parker’s style is only dangerous in the sense that you might lose your way in finding your own.

        The great thing about this field we’re in is that you can write some damn good books on the way to discovering your own voice. And, while you do so, there could be worse things in the world than having your writing compared to Parker’s or Leonard’s!

      • Thanks for the compliment. It made me smile like an idiot. 🙂

        I know what you mean. Parker’s style is so relaxing and off the cuff, that when you do your own writing, you can’t help but allow humour of the dry and sarcastic variety to filter through.

        One of my false starts, which I did a little while ago, centred around a disgraced lawyer who moved to a seedy part of town and started a PI business utilising unconventional lawyering practices. I don’t know whether I subconsciously tried to emulate Parker or whether it was an aspect of my personality that influenced the writing, but it certainly contained elements of not only Spencer’s personality, but Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Chandler’s Marlowe etc. Could be that a mutated version of all of the above spilled out. I ran out of steam with it and never finished the story, so I don’t know. It felt relaxing enough to write though.

        The fantasy piece I am currently struggling with is much more serious, and I have to consciously guard against allowing it to become too humorous. Just the nature of the story and the world it takes place in makes humour almost misplaced. Instead, I opted for a more cynical approach, but even with that, one needs to be careful. It helps that it is a 3rd person POV.

        But you’re right. It is all fascinating stuff and having a discussion like this just makes me want to go reread all my hardboiled detective novels. Cheers!

  3. Excellent critique, Matt. I’ve read most of Parker’s books and loved them. The dry humor always makes me smile, and his snappy dialogue is terrific. My biggest issue, though, is Parker’s obsessive relationship with women. Spenser/Susan, Jesse Stone/Jen, and even the character in his early Love and Glory–all have the same relationship with the girl. I read an interview with him and he talked about his wife, Joan, in the same way.

    He was still one of the great writers. I try not to read anything by him when I’m writing because his influence is so strong.

    I enjoyed your insights. Thanks.

    • Thank, Ellis! You’re so right about the humor and the dialogue. He just knew how to capture the essence of a scene in a couple of words. I still laugh out loud at his quip, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.”

      His (sub-conscious and conscious) ideas about relationships are interesting. I might post my critique of his novel Crimson Joy; the premise is supposed to be about Spenser chasing a serial killer, but once I did my close reading, I realized most of the book is given over to the relationship power dynamics between Spenser and Susan. Except for the required chase scenes, the serial killer theme is a distant second place to the relationship story.

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