Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Spenser at 80

I've always liked Robert B. Parker, author of the Spenser and Virgil Cole novels. While I never throught he was in the same league with Hammett or Chandler, he was always a fun, easy read, and I consumed his books one after another, like potato chips, barely pausing to savor one before picking up the next. After he died in 2010, his estate farmed out his characters to writers who were charged with peretuating the several franchises. The first of the new Spenser books, Lullaby by Ace Atkins, came out a couple months ago, and I'm reading it now. It is better than Sixkill, the last Spenser novel Parker wrote, but that's not saying much. Sixkill was, I think, Parker's weakest story (Catskill Eagle was his most preposterous), and at the time, it made me think that, perhaps, the author did his character a favor by dying.

The plot of Lullaby plot is absorbing enough (I'm about 100 pages from the end), but Spenser himself is much more smug, pedantic and judgmental than I remember him. I also keep asking myself, just how old are these people? Parker would have been 80 next month, and given that the Spenser was in his early forties when Godwulf Manuscript appeared in 1973, and no attempt has been made to telescope his history, he has got to be up there as well. It's hard to buy him as a tough guy anymore. (Imagine Groucho Marx, circa 1970, beating people up.) His sidekick, Hawk, is even sadder, since he tries so hard to be stylish.

Then there's Susan, Spenser's love interest. She must be in her mid-70s at least, and she’s no longer believable as the svelte goddess who turns heads every time she enters a room. There is a scene in Lullaby where she is sitting on a sofa in nothing but a sweatshirt and panties, with her feet tucked under her. It's meant to be a turn-on, but ewwww. I kept thinking of my mother. I’ve known a lot of elderly women, and they possess many stellar qualities, but kittenish sexuality is not one of them. Nor should it be.

Parker once said he dealt with Spenser's age by not dealing with it, but the time for denial is long past. The series should be either rebooted or retired.

Oh, and it there's ever another TV adaptation, may suggest Hugh Laurie and Lisa Edelstein for the leads? Loved them on House, though the series itself quickly fell to pieces.

No comments: