I’m not sure how Robert B. Parker’s Early Autumn ended up on my to-read list. Maybe I thought I’d try an airport book?
Anyway, if you know more than I do about crime fiction, you may recognize Parker’s work, since he’s the guy who created the ‘80s television character, Spenser for Hire. Fans open a Spenser book and know they’ll get snappy dialogue, fast action and babes.
In this Spenser book, the private eye steps into a bitter divorce. The fighting couple uses their teenage son as a bargaining chip, but good-hearted Spenser takes the traumatized kid in hand and repairs the boy’s self-esteem.
I can vouch for the snappy dialogue, though some characters got vapid lines. (See below on Men Writing Women.)
I can vouch for the action, though at times it didn’t make sense. Like, Why did you march in to the bad guy’s office and start throwing people against the wall? Won’t you get jail time for that?
I can vouch for the babes. Meaning, I can vouch that they are there, in the plot. This was the 80s, so Parker, keeping up with the times, gave his gals a few lines about women’s lib but, brrrrother, it was all lip service.
For instance, Spenser ticks off his girlfriend by bringing her a bunch of guests to feed and entertain. She cusses about it, and bangs a few dishes in the kitchen. But as soon as they get rid of the guests, poof!, she’s not mad anymore. Nope, she’s ready to, um, make his evening special.
Oh, the problems of men writing women! Funny that I should stumble across this rant the same week I read a book that illustrates the problem.
Mostly, I read Parker’s pages and reminisced about the ‘80s. From where I stand now, it was a blessedly simple, wonderfully non-threatening decade.
We read Color Me Beautiful and Dress For Success.
We talked on cordless phones, big bricks on which we had to pull out the antenna to answer and pop it back down to hang up.
We tuned in to Dallas and watched Sue Ellen, who pulled off that Dress-for-Success look better than the rest of us plebes, and who collapsed the antenna of her cordless phone, holding it to her sighing breast as she considered her newest troubles.
We watched commercials for Cool Ranch Doritos and Lean Cuisine, then ran out and bought the stuff. (Oh, my heck! My daily lunches are so . . . Reagan-era!)
We made the newest, smartest recipes and brought them to the potluck. Seven-layer dip anyone? Poke cake? Dirt pudding?
What lends the ‘80s such a rosy glow these days is that, by now, I can see that it all turned out OK. I’m sure I spent the entire decade braced for famine and plague, just like I’m spending this decade. But that’s just me. I always see my dirt pudding cup as half empty.
Parker, our detective novelist is no longer with us. But you will still find brand new Robert B. Parker tales wherever books are sold, because his estate hired a handful of authors to keep churning out stories in his name.