Trying to gather my thoughts. Still a bit boggled by the news of Parker's passing. As I mentioned earlier, I've been a big fan since the publication of The Godwulf Manuscript. The president of the college where I was teaching called me to his office and handed me a copy of the book. "This is the kind of thing you might like," he said, and he was absolutely right. Too bad it was a book club edition, or I'd have a real treasure (yes, I still have it; what did you expect?). Since that time, I don't think I've missed a single book, and that includes the YA novels.
Lots of people quit reading Parker years ago, for one reason or another. Not me. I stuck with him, and I've enjoyed every book of his that I've read. Some more than others, but I've never been less than satisfied. What did Parker have that made him one of my favorites? I've written about this before, but it's one of my favorite quotations, and so I'll repeat it. When asked why people were so devoted to his books, Parker said, "I think they like the sound of the words on the page." I can't speak for anyone else, but that's what draws me back, time after time: the sound of the words on the page.
I've joked before, and so have many others, about all the white space in Parker's novels, but when it comes to telling a fast-moving story with mostly dialog, and not much of it, Parker has few peers. His stories have a bit of depth to them, too, an emotional heft some people overlook.
I met Parker a couple of times, the first being in San Francisco in 1982 at a Bouchercon in the Jack Tarr hotel, or whatever it was called in those days. Right across the street from Tommy's Joynt, a spot Parker mentioned in one of his books published not too long after that Bouchercon. Parker was the Guest of Honor that year. I met him in the lobby, where he was waiting around for his room, which for some reason wasn't ready. He wore a red windbreaker with Ace (his nickname) embroidered on it. We talked for a while about this and that, probably our dissertations, which we'd written at about the same time about the same three authors.
It's hard to believe, but in those days at Bouchercon, a writer like Parker spoke in a small room with only 30-40 people in the audience, maybe fewer than that. He told a great story about giving up teaching for full-time writing. He said that he taught fewer and fewer classes and was finally teaching only one class a week. When he told his wife that he was going to stop teaching altogether, she said, "But it's only once a week." He answered, "Yes, but it's every week." Maybe you had to be there.
I don't have much else to say except, "Robert B. Parker, ave atque vale."