Monday, November 19, 2012

Shopping for the Robert B. Parker Fan

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I've asked some folks to help me out on making "If you like this..." recommendations. Often we have a reader on our gift list who has a favorite author, but when he/she has a favorite author, they buy themselves that author's book immediately when it comes out. So what reading alternatives do we have for those folks? How about introducing them to someone new? A writer who's wonderful, but maybe not as well know??

I wanted to kick this off for the start of the big shopping season so you could have some ideas for your gift lists. I hope you'll also point others over (especially those who don't regularly read crime fiction but might want to buy for a crime fiction fan) to take a look at the suggestions for the readers on their lists.

Starting us off is my wonderful friend Lauren. She's an avid reader and a great Robert B. Parker fan. Here's what Lauren has to share:

I still remember, with sorrowful clarity, the morning I woke to learn that Robert B. Parker had died. It may sound silly, but the man, his stories, characters, and words had been a large part of my life for thirty some-odd years. Still, I was taken aback at how deeply his death impacted me. Part of that, I later realized, was the seeming sudden and untimely nature of his passing. Most people, those in our lives, others that entertain us such as actors or sports heroes, we see on a daily or at least somewhat regular basis, we watch them age along with us. Not so much authors. The jacket cover often stays the same for years, many don’t tour often (or at all), and many do not partake in events such as Bouchercon. Robert B. Parker could not be dead, he was still that rakish 60-something posing with Pearl on the jacket of my books. And yet, he was gone. And with him, part of my "family."
The impact was also deep because of the literary family Parker had created for me. Picking up a Spenser book to see what Spenser, Hawk, Susan and the remaining cast of regulars was up to felt like pulling into the driveway after a long trip away from home. Yeah, you knew what was coming, especially towards the end of the series when the story might not have been much of a story at all anymore. But that’s not what kept me coming back. I knew those characters, I cared about those characters, I drank up their dialogue, their relationships, their thoughtfulness (and those damn food and cooking descriptions which always left me salivating). There was going to be no filling that void.
And yet, there has been, to a certain extent. When I first learned of Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series, centered on law enforcement personnel in Wyoming, I had no desire to read them. Westerns are all well and good, but not particularly in my reading wheelhouse. I had way too many other books on the shelf waiting for my attention. Jen kept insisting to me, "They’re not Westerns!" And in the sense she meant, they’re not. I finally picked up The Cold Dish and was very pleasantly surprised. The dialogue sparked (and feels, to me, very reminiscent of Parker’s dialogue), the characters and relationships were real (to me and to and between each other). The stories, just as in the Spenser series, became something of a backdrop for being able to peer into the lives of smart, interesting, real people dealing with their issues, personal and interpersonal alike. Walt, Vic and Henry, to some extent the Spenser, Susan and Hawk of the Longmire series, had me hooked. The cast of supporting characters is no less important or well-drawn as those in the Spenser series. The void was feeling a little less of a chasm.
I was wrong to mentally classify this series as Western. Craig’s books are Westerns the way the Spenser books were about Boston. The atmosphere, the land, the location inform the story. Indeed, Wyoming becomes a character in much the same way Boston was a character in the Spenser books. Ultimately, the Longmire series is about the people, a group of wonderful and wonderfully flawed characters I can’t wait to revisit each time out. It’s almost like I’ve got that driveway home to pull into again, knowing what’s waiting for me at the end, something that feels a bit like going home.
As an aside, if you are or have been a fan of the Spenser series, please give Ace Atkins’ continuation of the series a read. I, probably like many, had my doubts, but was really pleased with Ace’s work and will happily pick up the next installment.
I can't disagree with any of Lauren's comments! I think these are great recommendations for your Parker fan. Feel free to leave other recs of your own--or questions if you have any--in the comments. With these posts we're here to help you find the perfect books for the readers on your gift list! 


jvdsteen November 19, 2012 at 9:11 AM  

My blog is dedicated to a lot of writers following in the footsteps of Mr. Parker, it is called

picky girl November 19, 2012 at 9:57 AM  

I love this post and Lauren's words. I felt the same way when I had learned Robert Parker had died.

A man I cared very much for would read his newest and pass it on to me, and we would discuss them. Loved the characters, particularly Virgil and Everett. The dialogue was so concise, but it conveyed these two men so well. I'm almost more upset that there will be no more Virgil and Everett than Spenser and Hawk (ok, not quite).

Lesa November 20, 2012 at 11:01 AM  

I loved Lauren's blog. I was as upset as she was when Robert B. Parker died. The last time I felt that bad was when Robert Heinlein died. It feels as if part of the universe has shifted. Thank you, Lauren, for this post.

And, Jen? Great idea!


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