Spenser revisited

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(Host) Commentator Jules Older figures he’d be a lot more productive if it weren’t for a certain Boston detective.

(Older) It’s not fair. It’s not even a little bit fair. Here I am, in the midst of reading two perfectly good books when the doorbell rings. It’s UPS, delivering Back Story, the newest Spenser novel by Robert Parker. I’ll read just one page, I swear. I’ve got these two other books to read. I’ve got a looming deadline. And in a couple of hours I’m going to the Haskell Opera House to see Plaza Suite. Can’t read Spenser now. So, just one page.

Sigh…153 pages later I look at my watch. If I don’t leave this house in the next 45 seconds, I’ll miss the first act. I’ve already missed the deadline. Spensered again!

The sad truth is, once I start a Spenser novel, other books, important deadlines, evenings of theater, sleep, food and human discourse all get shoved into the background. Spenser rules. Get used to it.

What makes this Boston detective, his fabulous partner Hawk and his alluring girlfriend Susan Silverman so compelling? In hopes of curing my addiction, I’ve tried to figure that out. The appeal of the Spenser novels starts with Parker’s rare ability to mix wit and romance, action and reflection. Their addictiveness in enhanced by short sentences, short paragraphs and short chapters. Each chapter ends with a sentence that makes you want to peek at what happens next. The next chapter begins with a sentence that makes you keep on reading.

Part of the appeal is Spenser’s ease in relating to American minorities, notably blacks (meet Hawk) and Jews (say hi to Susan). This enviable minority comfort is combined with zero tolerance for hypocrisy and cant, whether it comes from the academic Left or the Limbaugh Right.

It doesn’t hurt that Spenser tends to meet a lot of sexy women who find him irresistible, or that he stays loyal to his own sexy and adoring Susan. And Spenser shares a key trait with other popular crime fighters: decency and honor in one who fights evil and carries a gun; in short, an American hero.

Want a sample? Here’s a Spenser Moment from Back Story. Spenser is telling Hawk how to deal with three guys who are out to murder Spenser:

“If they come after me, you come lippity-lop to my rescue.”
“Yeah, like Br’er Rabbit. I’m trying to bridge the racial gap.”
“Let it gap,” Hawk said.
“You got anything but the handgun?” I said.
“Usual selection in the trunk. You carrying that little .38?”
“No need to be offensive,” I said. “It’s got a two-inch barrel.”
“Yeah. You Irish. You think that’s long.”

This is Jules Older in Albany, Vermont, the Soul of the Kingdom.

Jules Older is the author of more than 20 books for children and adults, and is a passionate outdoors enthusiast.

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