At the age of 77, "just sitting at his desk" at his home in Cambridge, Mass., according to an email sent out by a representative of his U.K. publisher Quercus, Robert B. Parker is dead. The news of Parker's death on Monday was confirmed by Parker's U.S publisher, Putnam; on Twitter, a representative wrote: "R.I.P beloved author Robert B. Parker. You were indeed a Grand Master, your legacy lives on, and you will be missed by us all."
In a statement released late Monday, Parker's longtime editor at Putnam, Christine Pepe, said: “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.”The thriller writer Joseph Finder also confirmed the news directly with Parker's family, said to be "in shock."And the Bookseller quotes Parker's UK editor, Nick Johnston: "He was a great talent who will be mourned by all his many fans."
I'm really not sure how to process this. Not at all. I suppose it's exactly the way the author best known for his Spenser private detective novels, who by the latter portion of his career was up to publishing three novels a year, working at a five to ten page-a-day clip, should die - doing exactly what he was doing, day in, day out.
He is survived by his wife, Joan, and his sons, David, a choreographer, and Daniel, an actor. Several more novels will be published in 2010, including SPLIT IMAGE, the newest Jesse Stone novel (out February 23) and BLUE-EYED DEVIL, an Appaloosa novel (out on May 4). In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Community Servings, 18 Marbury Terrace, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130. As well, Parker's literary agent, Helen Brann, told the Associated Press that a private ceremony will take place this week to remember the author, and a public memorial, a "celebration of his life and work," is planned for mid-February in Boston.
Many more tributes will likely roll in over the next day or two, and I'll be updating this post during that period of time with links to pieces past and present, including:
- Bullets & Beer - the in-depth RBP site
- Robert B. Parker's blog, last updated in May
- The Thrilling Detective on all of RBP's P.I. novels
- Don Swaim interviews RBP in 1984 and 1986
- 2009 WSJ interview
- Mystery Ink's RBP Tribute, in honor of his Gumshoe Award for Lifetime Achievement
- The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik cooks one of Spenser's recipes
- Bill Crider on "a writer I've followed faithfully since the appearance of his very first book."
- Laura Ann Gilman, who used to work at Putnam, which was Parker's longtime American publisher
- Janet Rudolph
- Gerald So, who was one of Parker's most astute fans and critics
- Bob Freeman
- Joe Hill: "Tremendously sad to hear about Robert Parker dying. When I was a jr. in H.S., I went through about 10 of those Spenser novels in 6 months. I had lunch with him & his wife Joan once and he was just as unflappable and funny and perceptive as you'd want him to be...I have an impression (I don't really know & could be wrong) that he lived the life he wanted to live. I'm down about it, tho."
- Chris Well
- Ann Kingman, a sales rep for Random House: "He was the 1st author I collected in 1st editions. And his books helped me turn many non-readers into readers."
- David Lubar
- David Cramner
- Jen Forbus
- Matt Marcotte
- Ron Earl Phillips
- The 411 from 406
- Dave White: "the Spenser novels weren't about thrilling reads to me. They became a visit with an old, tough, and funny friend."
- Lee Goldberg
- James Reasoner
- Obit from the WSJ's Speakeasy blog
- WBZ-TV's report
- An appreciation from Jim Fusilli, crime writer and WSJ rock critic
- Associated Press obit, which includes a quote from Parker's agent, Helen Brann: "They had had breakfast together Monday and he was perfectly fine," Brant said. "She went out to do her running and when she came back about an hour later, he was dead. We were in a complete state of shock and still cannot quite believe it."
- Washington Post obit by Patricia Sullivan
- St. Petersburg Times obit by Colette Bancroft
- Boston Globe obit by Bryan Marquard
- Preliminary NYT obit by Bruce Weber (a full one still to come)
- Rick Koster at The Day
- Bob Sassone at TV Squad
- The Christian Science Monitor's Marjorie Kehe
- Mat Schaffer at the Boston Herald
- E.J. Dionne
- Bill Barol
- Bish's Beat
- Tainted Archive
- Martin Edwards
- Marc Levy at Cambridge Day
- Bryon Quertermous, who named his son after Parker's iconic P.I. Spenser: "the only reason I ever think about going back and writing a PI novel is because of the amazing experiences I had reading those early Spenser novels and the desperate need to recreate it in my own work."
- Tina Jordan at Entertainment Weekly
- Reuters obit
- Tim Redmond in the SF Bay Guardian
- Clea Simon's appreciation for the Boston Globe's book blog: "If Philip Marlowe is LA, then Spenser is Boston. Tough, tender, with no first name necessary, Spenser loved food, books, and the Red Sox as well as justice, and made no apologies for these passions." Simon also picks five Parker novels that qualify as "must-reads."
- At The Rap Sheet, Kevin Burton Smith comes out swinging: "I know a lot of you didn’t like him, or dismissed him. Including, distressingly, a small but vocal slew of his contemporaries, who--just coincidentally, of course--never achieved his commercial success...But his influence on the private-eye genre (and the mystery genre as a whole) over the last four decades is undeniable." And J. Kingston Pierce recalls his 1980 interview with Parker for the Willamette Week and sums the author up thusly: "his prose was often so smooth, you might find yourself reading 30 pages of it without being cognizant of time passing. You could tell in reading his work that there were few things he enjoyed more in life than putting words on a blank page."
UPDATE: My own tribute to Robert B. Parker is now online at the Los Angeles Times' website (and will run in tomorrow's paper.) Here's how it opens:
Robert B. Parker, who died Monday in his Cambridge, Mass., home at age 77, spent his final moments doing exactly what he'd done for almost four decades: sitting at his desk, working on his next novel. He didn't concern himself with looking back. Instead, he wrote, and in the process irrevocably altered American detective fiction, forging a link between classic depictions and more contemporary approaches to the form.
Parker produced more than five dozen books in a variety of styles, including westerns, historical fiction, a marriage memoir and a nonfiction account of horse racing. But the bulk of his writing revolves around Spenser, the one-named, Korean War vet detective first introduced in "The Godwulf Manuscript" (1973).
That novel, which Parker wrote two years after publishing his Boston University doctoral thesis on the violent heroes of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, is a clear pastiche of those authors' works. Parker's biggest debt, though, was to Chandler, whose detective, Philip Marlowe, inspired Spenser's poet-inflected surname, his noble quest for justice and his desire to save women from miscreants...
UPDATE 2: Tom Nolan's tribute in the Wall Street Journal, simply put, knocks it out of the park, and closes with a bang: "The Spenser chronicles were created to be read in the moment. Time alone knows whether they'll survive their creator. But one sign of how important a writer was to us is how death, in an instant, can turn a name-brand author from taken for granted to one of a kind. Right away, we miss Robert B. Parker."
UPDATE 3, 1/21: More tributes roll in from Marilyn Stasio, Otto Penzler, Michael Carlson, Ethan Iverson and one of Parker's oldest friends, Gary Goshgarian: "I didn’t know Bob Parker just through his novels. He was my oldest and closest friend. He introduced me to Kathleen Krueger, my wife of 30 years. With his wife, Joan, we played tennis and double-dated and traveled to England. We watched each other’s kids grow up. His death is like the loss of a gravitational force in our lives - something solid and strong and dependable."