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The Professional Hardcover – October 5, 2009

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Editorial Reviews Review

Sue Grafton and Robert B. Parker: Author One-on-One
In this Amazon exclusive, we brought together blockbuster authors Sue Grafton and Robert B. Parker and asked them to interview each other.

Sue Grafton is the New York Times-bestselling author of the beloved Kinsey Millhone mystery series, which continues to delight millions of readers across the globe. Read on to see Sue Grafton's questions for Robert B. Parker, or turn the tables to see what Parker asked Grafton.

Sue Grafton Grafton: During your career, you've generally worked as a solo writer. Aside from your collaboration with Raymond Chandler (quite dead), how did you enjoy the experience of writing with your wife, Joan? I notice a long break between Three Weeks in Spring, which was published in 1978, and A Year at the Races, which was published in 1990.

Parker: Joan is an idea person more than a writer. She has done a lot of uncredited thinking for me. But Three Weeks in Spring, about her first bout with breast cancer, was a special case. And A Year at the Races, also nonfiction, was about our initiation into the world of thoroughbred racing. I have found it wise for me to write and Joan to think (egad, what if it were the other way?), but I have also found it wise not to speak for her. I liked working with her. In fact, I like pretty much everything with her.

Grafton: I notice in your bibliography that you wrote a nonfiction book called Parker on Writing. I'd be interested in reading it, but I decided I couldn't afford the $499.99 the book is selling for online. How do you feel about a reprint? (P.S. This is not a sly hint that you should send me a copy….)

Parker: Parker on Writing is a collection of random items loosely about writing that Herb Yellin at Lord John Press collected into a finely manufactured limited edition. Herb is a friend, and given what he paid, I can convincingly say it was affection not money that captured me. I feel fine about a reprint…. If I have an extra I will send you one, but I'll have to look—it’s quite possible that I don't.

: I'm curious about your experience in writing Chasing the Bear: A Young Spenser Novel. What prompted you to write about Spenser's early life? Did you learn things about him you hadn't known before?

: My publisher, agent, and wife all wanted me to try a YA novel. I did three, culminating, at my publisher's request, with Chasing the Bear. Since I knew a great deal about Spenser's adulthood, it was mostly a matter of jacking up the adulthood and sliding a consistent childhood under it. YA novels are hard because you know a great deal that you can't use.

: I saw the movie Appaloosa last night on DVD, and while I haven't had a chance to read the novel and study the two side by side, I got the impression that the movie was close to what you had in mind. Will you write about Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch again? You did seem to leave the door open to that possibility.

: I’ve written two sequels to Appaloosa (Resolution and Brimstone) and am finishing up a third (Blue-Eyed Devil). Ed Harris did a wonderful job, I thought, with the movie. It is as close as it could possibly be to the book, and those parts that had to be added are hard for me to tell from my own stuff. Harris is genius, as is Viggo [Mortensen]—they nailed the characters and the relationship. You can also take Ed Harris's word—in your own adventures in Southern California you may have noticed how infrequent that is. Incidentally, Bragg's lawyer in the courtroom scene was played by the great Daniel T. Parker.

: How do you spend your time when you're not writing? Hobbies? Leisure activities? I'm not very good at having fun, but I'm hoping you are. Please advise.

: My friend John Marsh once remarked, "I hate fun." I concur. Mostly, I just live my life, which turns out to be fun. I work out, box with a trainer, watch ball games, go out to dinner with Joan. You've met Joan. We’ve been married fifty-three years. Now that's fun.

From Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Parker makes producing snappy banter look easy in his 37th Spenser novel (after Rough Weather). He also manages to draw new readers into the Boston PI's major personal relationships—with love interest Susan Silverman and friend/ally/bodyguard Hawk—without shoveling on the backstory. Spenser agrees to help a quartet of married women fend off extortion demands from stud Gary Eisenhower, with whom each has had an affair. Meanwhile, the husband of one of the women under blackmail threat hires some thugs to deal with the matter. The action takes its time getting to a dead body, but, as usual, the smooth, entertaining prose more than compensates for any deficiencies of plot. The absence of major personal developments for Spenser or his associates marks this as a less memorable entry than others in this iconic series, but it remains a solid, enjoyable contemporary detective novel. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 289 pages
  • Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons; 1st edition (October 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399155945
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399155949
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (195 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) has long been acknowledged as the dean of American crime fiction. His novel featuring the wise-cracking, street-smart Boston private-eye Spenser earned him a devoted following and reams of critical acclaim, typified by R.W.B. Lewis' comment, "We are witnessing one of the great series in the history of the American detective story" (The New York Times Book Review). In June and October of 2005, Parker had national bestsellers with APPALOOSA and SCHOOL DAYS, and continued his winning streak in February of 2006 with his latest Jesse Stone novel, SEA CHANGE.

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Parker attended Colby College in Maine, served with the Army in Korea, and then completed a Ph.D. in English at Boston University. He married his wife Joan in 1956; they raised two sons, David and Daniel. Together the Parkers founded Pearl Productions, a Boston-based independent film company named after their short-haired pointer, Pearl, who has also been featured in many of Parker's novels.

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 keeper-of-the-flame of America's rich tradition of detective fiction. Parker's fictional Spenser inspired the ABC-TV series Spenser: For Hire. In February 2005, CBS-TV broadcast its highly-rated adaptation of the Jesse Stone novel Stone Cold, which featured Tom Selleck in the lead role as Parker's small-town police chief. The second CBS movie, Night Passage, also scored high ratings, and the third, Death in Paradise, aired on April 30, 2006.

Parker was named Grand Master of the 2002 Edgar Awards by the Mystery Writers of America, an honor shared with earlier masters such as Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen.

Parker died on January 19, 2010, at the age of 77.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on October 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The 37th installment of Robert B. Parker's series featuring the detective with no first name opens with Spenser in familiar surroundings. He's alone in his Boston office when a woman shows up in need of his services. This may seem familiar to fans of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, who introduced us to their famous fictional detectives, Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, respectively, in a similar manner. But while the opening seems the same, Parker has taken the PI novel much further than his renowned predecessors ever did as he reinvigorates the somewhat stilted genre.

Longtime fans will find much to enjoy in THE PROFESSIONAL. The case appears straightforward: the woman who arrives in his office is a lawyer representing four rich married women who are all having affairs with the same man, Gary Eisenhower. Their husbands are older men in prominent positions. Eisenhower blackmails them with audio and video evidence of their trysts. Spenser starts investigating the case right away. He states, "But there was something wrong with the whole setup. Everything kept turning out not quite what it started out seeming to be." Something is awry, a staple of detective fiction, but Parker brings everything to a new level with his latest Spenser story,

One of the things that throws a curveball into the case is that not only is Eisenhower not afraid of the cops, but none of the alleged victims of the crime are willing to press charges. And at least one woman sees no reason not to keep sleeping with Eisenhower! Since Spenser does not take money to rough up people or bump them off, the case is apparently at a dead end. He wishes the women good luck and leaves. But as fans know, Spenser just cannot let go as he tells the reader, "Nobody was paying me to do anything.
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146 of 176 people found the following review helpful By Rick Shaq Goldstein on October 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Sadly the days of the hard hitting... hard shooting... unyielding... snappy repartee... private detective Spenser... are no more. The former "MAN'S-MAN" who spent untold hours with the tough rough-edged men on both sides of the law... is now more content to exchange double-entendre's with the always annoying Susan. In between the relentless honey-dripping dialogue in which Spenser constantly reminds the reader Ad Nauseam that Susan is the most beautiful woman in the world and would look like a runway model even if she wore a ten-year-old unwashed mechanics uniform... Susan dutifully returns serve to Spenser... by unrelentingly jogging the reader's memory as to Spenser being the stud of all studs. And of course for experienced Spenser fans you know it has to be stated at least three times per "short-story" that assuredly Susan has a Ph.D. from Harvard. The concept of the crime to be investigated that this saga is built around is hard to swallow. A female lawyer approaches "Stud" Spenser representing four rich women who all have a similar M.O. They married rich older men... and they're all having adulterous sex with the same man Gary Eisenhower. And now Gary whose real name in a prior life was Goran Pappas is blackmailing all of them with sex tapes of their escapades. Even for a light hearted Spenser tale the fact that all four women still want to keep the amorous affairs alive seems farfetched. Where all credibility dissipates is when for some unknown reason Spenser takes a liking to Eisenhower/Pappas.

Parker dutifully reaches into his extensive collection of former notorious Spenser characters... if not physically in the non-action... they are at least mentioned by reputation... such as... Rita Fiore, Tony Marcus, Junior, Ty-Bop, Vinnie Morris, Chollo, Frank Belson and Quirk among others.
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57 of 68 people found the following review helpful By J. D. Witt on November 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
To put Spenser out to pasture. This latest Parker installment disturbed me on many levels. I can take the same tired dialogue repeated over and over. (We'd be fools not to.) I can take hearing that Susan went to Harvard how many times now? I can even take the large print and acres of white space that mean the book can be read in just a few hours. But I am to believe that Spenser would take a liking to a parasitic blackmailer who preys on women? Spenser, the romantic who rides in on his white horse to save the fairer sex would work hard to save THIS guy's life? Please. This made no sense to me whatsoever. And in the end the whole blackmail part of the plot was much ado about nothing. Just a lame segue into the murders that made the first half of the book seem disconnected to the last half. There was no mystery there either. Anyone who didn't figure out who the murderer was just wasn't paying attention. Nor was the Of Mice and Men rip off any surprise either. Who didn't see that coming? The whole story just made me tired. Even the brief appearance of Hawk couldn't save the day.

For the first time ever I don't recommend reading a Spenser novel. If Parker is so tired of writing Spenser and Hawk that he gives such a poor effort then these characters should be respectfully retired before the final novels spoil the whole pot.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Markh on October 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Parker seems to have been phoning them in recently, and this is particularly evident with his latest Spenser novel. The plotline is unbelievable and Spenser seems to act in wholly unrealistic ways, whether it be befriending a blackmailer or (for no good reason) shielding a murderer from the police. The dialog between Spenser and Susan has the feeling of having been written before, numerous times; in fact, just once, I would like to go through an entire Spenser novel without having to read Susan and/or Spenser commenting on the fact that she has a PhD from Harvard. I've always been a big fan of Parker's books, ever since reading The Judas Goat decades ago, but I think Parker should start emphasizing quality over quantity.
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