Robert B. Parker, the bestselling, award-wining author of more than 45 books for Penguin Group (USA)'s G. P. Putnam's Sons and Berkley Books imprints, died suddenly on January 18, 2010 at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was 77.
Long acknowledged as the dean of American crime fiction, Mr. Parker was named Grand Master of the Edgar Awards in 2002 by the Mystery Writers of America, an honor shared with earlier masters such as Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen. He was renowned for his Spenser novels, featuring the wise-cracking, street-smart Boston private-eye, which earned him a devoted following and reams of critical acclaim. The New York Times Book Review said of the Spenser books: "We are witnessing one of the great series in the history of the American detective story." Mr. Parker began writing his Spenser novels in 1971 while teaching at Boston's Northeastern University. Little did he suspect then that his witty, literate prose and psychological insights would make him the keeper of the flame of America's rich tradition of detective fiction. Mr. Parker also launched two other bestselling series featuring, respectively, Massachusetts police chief Jesse Stone and Boston private detective Sunny Randall. In addition, Mr. Parker authored four national bestselling Westerns and successfully crossed over to the young adult market, writing several bestsellers for Philomel, a Penguin Young Readers Group imprint.
Helen Brann, Mr. Parker's literary agent of 37 years, said, "Bob wrote five pages a day every day but Sunday (and some holidays or vacations with his wife Joan) every day of his adult life. He was very clear about it. No more and no less than five pages. Bob was 'one of the ones' in my life, a friend whose kindness, wit, loyalty and sense of honor, all of which were reflected in his work, I have counted on on a daily basis all these years. I shall miss him deeply."
Mr. Parker published more than 60 books worldwide during this career and has been translated in 24 countries. His latest, SPLIT IMAGE, a Jesse Stone novel, is being published by Putnam next month. The Boston Globe has called Mr. Parker "a force of nature."
Mr. Parker's Spenser books were the basis for the popular television series, "Spenser: For Hire", starring Robert Urich, which ran for four years on ABC-TV, with the Arts & Entertainment Network producing three Spenser television movies starring Joe Mantegna. The Jesse Stone series inspired seven made-for-television movies starring Tom Selleck, the latest to be aired by CBS-TV this spring. Mr. Selleck said, "It has been my privilege to have known Robert B. Parker, not only as a fine writer, but also as a collaborator, an inspiration and a friend. Together we have made seven Jesse Stone films for CBS --- based upon the character created by Bob and embraced by audiences the world over. Bob was an enthusiastic supporter of our films. To them, he contributed his spirit and his passion, as well as his wise and generous counsel. He was my friend and I shall greatly miss him."
Mr. Parker's bestselling Western novel, APPALOOSA, was made into a major motion picture by New Line, starred Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen, and was a box office hit in 2008. Ed Harris commented, "It's a sad day. Not only has the world lost one of its most prolific and entertaining authors, but on a personal level I lost a good friend, a man who afforded me one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, the filming of Appaloosa. He was incredibly generous and supportive and I will miss him dearly. My sympathy goes out to Joan and his sons."
Mr. Parker was born on September 17, 1932 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He graduated from Boston University, where he received his Masters and PhD. He was married to his wife Joan H. Parker for 53 years. They attended Colby College together, and they were married in 1956, after Mr. Parker completed his Army service in Korea. They have two sons, David, a dancer/choreographer, and Daniel, an actor.
Mr. Parker dedicated every book he wrote to his wife and once said, "Joan has been the central factor in my life since I was a child. You wouldn't understand me unless you understand me and her." He said of his character, Spenser: "What makes him interesting is the struggle for his autonomy; for Spenser, it is continuing struggle. Part of the reason he has to struggle is that he has allowed himself to be in love and to care. The struggle between care and commitment and autonomy lends tension to the form."
Mr. Parker's longtime editor, Christine Pepe, Executive Editor, G. P. Putnam's Sons, commented, "What mattered most to Bob were his family and his writing, and those were the only things that he needed to be happy. He will be deeply missed by all us at Putnam, and by his fans everywhere."
Robert B. Parker