Robert B. Parker

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Robert B. Parker
Robert B. Parker at Manchester Library.jpg
photo from Manchester Library
BornRobert Brown Parker
(1932-09-17)September 17, 1932
Springfield, Massachusetts,
United States
DiedJanuary 18, 2010(2010-01-18) (aged 77)[1]
Cambridge, Massachusetts,
United States
GenreDetective fiction, Western fiction
SpouseJoan Hall Parker (1956 – 2013)[2]
Children2 sons
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Robert B. Parker
Robert B. Parker at Manchester Library.jpg
photo from Manchester Library
BornRobert Brown Parker
(1932-09-17)September 17, 1932
Springfield, Massachusetts,
United States
DiedJanuary 18, 2010(2010-01-18) (aged 77)[1]
Cambridge, Massachusetts,
United States
GenreDetective fiction, Western fiction
SpouseJoan Hall Parker (1956 – 2013)[2]
Children2 sons

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 Spenser: For Hire based on the character in the mid-1980s; a series of TV movies based on the character were also produced. His works incorporate encyclopedic knowledge of the Boston metropolitan area.[3] 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.[1][4][5] The Spenser novels have been cited by critics and bestselling authors such as Robert Crais, Harlan Coben and Dennis Lehane[6] as not only influencing their own work but reviving and changing the detective genre.[7]

Early life[edit]

Parker was born in Springfield, Massachusetts.[8] In 1956 Parker married Joan H. Parker, whom he claimed to have met as a toddler at a birthday party.[9] They spent their childhoods in the same neighborhood.[10]

After earning a BA degree from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, Parker served as a soldier in the US Army Infantry 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.[8] Parker received a PhD in English literature from Boston University in 1971.[11] 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.[8]


Parker wrote his first novel[11] 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.[8]

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".[12] For example, the Spenser series characters include Hawk and Chollo, African-American and Mexican-American, respectively, as well as Spenser's Jewish girlfriend, Susan, various Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese, a gay cop, Lee Farrell, and even a gay mob boss, Gino Fish.[13] The 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,[8] but never materialized.[11] However, his publisher liked the character and asked him to continue with the series.[11]

Another figure created by Parker is Jesse Stone, a troubled former LAPD detective, who starts a new career as a police chief in a small New England town. Between 1997 and 2010, he wrote nine novels featuring Jesse Stone, four of which have been adapted as a series of TV movies by CBS starring Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone, beginning from the fifth movie with original stories.

Aside from crime writing, Parker also produced several Western novels, including Appaloosa,[14] and children's books. Although Parker's work has not been the topic of much literary criticism, his Westerns have received critical attention. Chris Dacus, who has written on other authors like Cormac McCarthy, has written of the intellectual depth and importance of Parker's Westerns in The Stoic Western Hero: Robert B. Parker's Westerns.[15] In 1994 Parker 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.[16]

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.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Parker and his wife had two sons, David and Daniel. Originally, the character of Spenser was to have been called "David," but Parker didn't want to appear to favor one of his sons over the other. Parker therefore omitted Spenser's first name entirely, and, to this day, the first name of the fictional Spenser remains unknown.

Parker and his wife Joan separated at one point but then came to an unusual arrangement: she lived on one floor of a large townhouse, he on another, and they shared the others. This living arrangement is mirrored in Spenser's private life: his girlfriend, Susan, had an aversion to marriage and living together full-time. Living separately suited them both, although they were fully committed to each other. Explaining the arrangement in an interview on CBS "Sunday Morning", Parker said, "I want to make love to my wife for the rest of my life, but I never want to sleep with her again."

He had a great fondness for dogs, including German Pointers. Dogs were included in his Spenser stories, aging along with the character and appearing in the ongoing series of novels.


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.[17] In 1983 he received the Maltese Falcon Award, Japan, for Early Autumn. 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.[18]

In 2008 he was awarded the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award.


Parker died suddenly of a heart attack, sitting at his desk in Cambridge, Massachusetts on January 18, 2010. He was 77.[1][4][19]



The Godwulf Manuscript19730-395-18011-2Spenser 01
God Save the Child19740-395-19955-7Spenser 02
Mortal Stakes19750-395-21969-8Spenser 03
Promised Land19760-395-24771-3Spenser 04Edgar Award, Best Novel
The Judas Goat19780-395-26682-3Spenser 05
Looking for Rachel Wallace19800-385-28558-2Spenser 06
Early Autumn19800-385-28242-7Spenser 071983 Maltese Falcon Award
A Savage Place19810-385-28951-0Spenser 08
Ceremony19820-385-28127-7Spenser 09
The Widening Gyre19830-385-29220-1Spenser 10
Love and Glory19830-385-29261-9Set at Taft University
Valediction19840-385-29330-5Spenser 11
A Catskill Eagle19850-385-29385-2Spenser 12
Taming a Sea-Horse19860-385-29461-1Spenser 13
Pale Kings and Princes19870-385-29538-3Spenser 14
Crimson Joy19880-385-29668-1Spenser 15
Playmates19890-399-13463-8Spenser 16Set at Taft University
Poodle Springs19890-399-13482-4Philip MarloweCompleting the 1958 Raymond Chandler novel
Stardust19900-399-13537-5Spenser 17
Pastime19910-399-13630-4Spenser 18
Perchance to Dream19910-399-13580-4Philip MarloweSequel to The Big Sleep
Double Deuce19920-399-13754-8Spenser 19
Paper Doll19930-399-13818-8Spenser 20
Walking Shadow19940-399-13961-3Spenser 21
All Our Yesterdays19940-385-30437-4
Thin Air19950-399-14063-8Spenser 22
Chance19960-399-14688-1Spenser 23
Small Vices19970-399-14547-8Spenser 24
Night Passage19970-399-14304-1Jesse Stone 1
Trouble in Paradise19980-399-14433-1Jesse Stone 2
Sudden Mischief19980-399-14696-2Spenser 25
Hush Money19990-399-14458-7Spenser 26
Family Honor19990-399-14566-4Sunny Randall 1
Perish Twice20000-399-14668-7Sunny Randall 2
Hugger Mugger20000-399-14587-7Spenser 27
Gunman's Rhapsody20010-399-14762-4Wyatt Earp in 1879
Death in Paradise20010-399-14779-9Jesse Stone 3
Potshot20010-399-14710-1Spenser 28
Widow's Walk20020-399-14845-0Spenser 29
Shrink Rap20020-399-14930-9Sunny Randall 3
Back Story20030-399-14977-5Spenser 30Includes Jesse Stone
Stone Cold20030-399-15087-0Jesse Stone 4
Bad Business20040-399-15145-1Spenser 31
Melancholy Baby20040-399-15218-0Sunny Randall 4
Double Play20040-399-15188-5
Cold Service20050-399-15240-7Spenser 32
Appaloosa20050-399-15277-6Cole & Hitch
School Days20050-399-15323-3Spenser 33
Hundred-Dollar Baby20060-399-15376-4Spenser 34Also published as Dream Girl
Sea Change20060-399-15267-9Jesse Stone 5
Blue Screen20060-399-15351-9Sunny Randall 5Includes Jesse Stone
High Profile20070-399-15404-3Jesse Stone 6Includes Sunny Randall
Spare Change20070-399-15425-6Sunny Randall 6Includes Jesse Stone
Now and Then20070-399-15441-8Spenser 35
Edenville Owls20070-399-24656-8
Stranger In Paradise20080-399-15460-4Jesse Stone 7
The Boxer and the Spy20080-399-24775-0
Rough Weather20080-399-15519-8Spenser 36
Resolution20080-399-15504-XCole & Hitch
Brimstone20090-399-15571-6Cole & Hitch
Chasing the Bear20090-399-24776-9Spenser 37"Young Spenser"
Night and Day20090-399-15541-4Jesse Stone 8Includes Sunny Randall
Split Image20100-399-15623-2Jesse Stone 9Includes Sunny Randall
Blue-Eyed Devil20100-399-15648-8Cole & Hitch
Painted Ladies20100-399-15685-2Spenser 39
Sixkill20110-399-15726-3Spenser 40Published posthumously

In April 2011, the Parker Estate—his widow Joan, and sons Dan and David—decided together with Parker's publishers to continue two series of his books.[20][21]

In August 2012 it was announced that Parker's Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch series would be continued by actor and screenwriter Robert Knott.[23]

Silent Night, a Spenser manuscript unfinished at the time of his death, was completed by Parker’s longtime literary agent, Helen Brann, and was published in November 2013.


Short fiction[edit]

"Surrogate"' (1991)" A short story published in the crime magazine New Crimes 3 ISBN 0-88184-737-2


  1. ^ a b c "'Spenser' novelist Robert Parker dies in Cambridge". Boston Herald. Associated Press. 2010-01-19. Retrieved 2010-01-19. 
  2. ^ See Discussion Page
  3. ^ Geherin, David (c. 1980). Sons of Sam Spade: the private-eye novel in the 70s: Robert B. Parker, Roger L. Simon, Andrew Bergman. Ungar. ISBN 0-8044-2231-1. 
  4. ^ a b Bryan Marquard (January 19, 2010). "Mystery novelist Robert Parker dies at 77". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 20, 2010. 
  5. ^ Patricia Sullivan (January 20, 2010). "Crime novelist, Spenser creator Robert B. Parker dies at 77". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 20, 2010. 
  6. ^ "His Spenser Novels Saved Detective Fiction" by Tom Nolan, The Wall Street Journal [1]
  7. ^ "Robert B. Parker left a mark on the detective novel" by Sarah Weinman, Los Angeles Times [2]
  8. ^ a b c d e Robert B. Parker biography from
  9. ^ Bruce Weber (January 20, 2010). "Robert B. Parker, the Prolific Writer Who Created Spenser, Is Dead at 77". The New York Times. Retrieved January 20, 2010. 
  10. ^ Jules Older (October 2003). "Robert B. Parker 2003 Interview". Yankee Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-23. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Author Profile: Robert B. Parker from
  12. ^ Christina Nunez. "Robert B. Parker Biography". Barnes and Noble. Retrieved 2010-02-23. 
  13. ^ See nearly the entire Spenser series for Hawk, whose prominence in the plots increases with each book; for Chollo, Stardust, Pot Shot, and Now and Then; Cold Service features Ukrainian and Russian mobsters; and Walking Shadow, which explores Chinese tongs and includes a Chinese-American translator named Mei Ling who has a relationship with Hawk; see Chance for Gino Fish, who also crosses over into the first Jesse Stone novel.
  14. ^ This was adapted to film in 2008 by Ed Harris, starring Harris (who also directed and co-wrote the screenplay), Viggo Mortensen and Jeremy Irons
  15. ^ Dacus, Chris. The Stoic Western Hero: Robert B. Parker's Westerns. CDI: 2011.
  16. ^ The Tennessean, 8 March 2009, Arts & Entertainment, p. 11
  17. ^ "Edgars" database search for "Grand Master" award at the Mystery Writers of America's website . Retrieved February 2009.
  18. ^ database [3]. Retrieved February 2009.
  19. ^ Bryan Marquard (January 20, 2010). "'Spenser' novelist Parker dead at 77". The Boston Globe. Retrieved February 20, 2010. 
  20. ^ Estate of Robert B. Parker (27 April 2011). "The Putnam Press Release". 
  21. ^ Shanahan, Mark; Meredith Goldstein (28 April 2011). "Parker’s series live on". The Boston Globe. 
  22. ^ Deahl, Rachel (April 7, 2014). "Coleman to Handle Jesse Stone for Putnam". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  23. ^ Estate of Robert B. Parker (9 August 2012). "Facebook post". 

External links[edit]