Favourite books – Early Autumn by Robert B Parker

I thought I’d do something a little bit different. I was reading another writer’s blog and she did reviews of some authors. So I decided to choose my favourite books and talk about them.

Robert B Parker was a prolific writer from the early 1970s until his death in 2010.

I first found his books through a tv series called Spenser for Hire, starring Robert Urich. I was in my teens when it was on and I think it only lasted three seasons, but I enjoyed it. Then I found one of the books and began enjoying the series.

Early Autumn is my favourite out of all of them. To summarise, Spenser is a private investigator. He’s hired by a woman to get her son back from her ex. The two parents are basically fighting over custody, but neither one of them care about the boy. All they care about is one-upping the other. When Spenser meets the boy, he’s not impressed. The kid is, as he says, ‘unlovely’. He has no idea how to take care of himself.

It soon becomes obvious in the story that the boy’s father has some bad connections – pretty much the local mob. Spenser’s asked to take the boy away to protect him. He soon begins teaching the kid how to box, to run five miles, and to decide for himself what he wants out of life. Eventually, he digs up some dirt on both parents and blackmails them into basically emancipating the boy.

What I love about this is the way Spenser takes the boy under his wing. He doesn’t let him take an inch, yet he gives the kid space to figure out what he wants. It’s not necessarily about the fitness, or building a cabin. Those are the skills Spenser has, and it’s just a way of giving the boy some pride. It’s the kind of mentorship I wished I’d had at 15.

There are also many other things I love about Spenser that are consistent throughout the series. One is his love for his partner, Susan. They’re in a committed relationship, although not married, and live separately. I think that’s a reflection on Bob’s relationship with his wife as I believe they separated at one point. Two is Spenser is well-versed in a lot of literature. Again, I think that’s a reflection of Bob, who was a professor at a university before he began writing full-time. Three, there is a lot of humour. Yes, Spenser is quite a tough guy, and he does meet a lot of unsavoury characters, but the plots are great.

Is it great writing? I’ve noticed a tendency for Bob to use ‘said’ a lot. There’s nothing really wrong with that but an editor friend believes it’s better to use alternatives. It does tend to be a little formulaic, but I think if there wasn’t a market for it, it wouldn’t sell. The point is, it’s entertaining reading and once I really get into the plot, I can’t put it down.

My love for these novels is one of the things that inspired me to write my own private investigator stories.

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