Fictional private eye Spenser is the titular character in the “Spenser” series of novels by Robert B. Parker. The series comprises forty novels written by Parker, as well as several additional novels that completed the series after the author’s death in 2010, written by Ace Atkins and Helen Brann. Parker’s first novel about Spenser, “The Godwulf Manuscript”, was released in 1973. Spenser is a former boxer and State trooper turned detective, whose exploits are featured in this remarkably popular series, belonging to the detective novel genre.
Order of Spenser Series
Robert B. Parker was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1932. He earned his Master’s degree in English literature, and later his Ph. D., from Boston University. He worked in technical writing and advertising between 1957 and 1962, and later taught at Northeastern University. He also served in the Korean War as a Morse code radio operator. From 1967 until his death in 2010, he was writing full-time.
The first novel in the series, “The Godwulf Manuscript”, begins the story of private detective Spenser. In the novel, Spenser is hired by the president of an unnamed university to find a medieval manuscript that had been stolen and held for ransom. With no proof of the perpetrator’s identity, and the only potential clue being the involvement of Terry Orchard, the secretary of a radical anti-capitalist student group, Spenser begins to unearth the links between the manuscript, two murders, and a drug dealing scheme. A series of characters are introduced, and the mystery of the missing book unravels to reveal a deeper criminal connection.
Robert B. Parker received three nominations and two Edgar Allan Poe Awards for his detective fiction. He received his first Edgar for the fourth novel of his Spenser series, “Promised Land”, in 1977. In 1983, the Maltese Falcon Society of Japan presented Parker with an award for the best hard-boiled novel published in Japan for his novel “Early Autumn”. In 2002 he was named Grand Master of the Edgar Awards for his lifetime work in the genre of crime fiction, and in 2008 he received a Gumshoe Award for lifetime achievement.
SPENSER BOOKS INTO MOVIES:
The novels from the Spenser series were adapted in a series of TV movies called “Spenser: For Hire”. The series featured Robert Urich as Spenser, and Avery Brooks as Hawk. It was shot in Boston, which was one of the reasons for its major popularity with viewers, and it ran between 1985 and 1988. Three additional Spenser TV movies were made between 1999 and 2001. Parker himself had a small role in the first of these movies, and cameo roles in the other two.
BEST SPENSER BOOKS:
Due to the popularity of his Spenser series, Robert B. Parker won over many critics and had a devoted following of detective novel fans.
The fourth novel in the series, Promised Land, is one of Parker’s most popular novels, as well as his first work to receive an Edgar Award. The story begins with Harvey Shepard, a property developer, who hires Spenser to find his runaway wife. Matters become complicated, as Spenser discovers that the missing wife has found some new friends, and learns of Shepard’s entanglement with the sinister loan shark King Powers.
Parker’s preoccupation with the shifting moral values in the contemporary American society is further explored in the exceedingly popular Early Autumn, the seventh novel in the Spenser series. The story begins with a particularly messy divorce. Spenser is hired by a divorcee find her fifteen-year-old son Paul after his father’s thugs kidnapped him. Realizing that the boy is nothing more than a pawn in the former spouses’ bitter custody battle, Spenser decides to take things into his own hands and beat the two at their own twisted game. With a contract on his life, Spenser takes the boy under his wing and tries to teach him all the values and skills he lacked due to his parents’ neglect. Paul remains a recurring, if minor, character in several later novels of the series.
OTHER BOOK SERIES YOU MAY LIKE:
Many fans of the crime fiction genre who enjoy books by Robert B. Parker also love “Ace Atkins”, a former crime reporter and author of eight very popular novels, who in fact had the honor of continuing Parker’s series after the author’s death. He is best known for his series dedicated to former US Army Ranger Quinn Colson, as well as several stand-alone novels.
Also popular among Robert B. Parker fans is author Gregory McDonald, best known for his character Irwin Maurice Fletcher – Fletch, an investigative reporter whose exploits were depicted in the “Fletch” series of crime fiction novels.