Robert B. Parker is Dead (UPDATED)

At the age of 77, “just sitting at his desk” at his home in Cambridge, Mass., according to an email sent out by a representative of his U.K. publisher Quercus, Robert B. Parker is dead. The news of Parker’s death on Monday was confirmed by Parker’s U.S publisher, Putnam; on Twitter, a representative wrote: “R.I.P beloved author Robert B. Parker. You were indeed a Grand Master, your legacy lives on, and you will be missed by us all.”

In a statement released late Monday, Parker’s longtime editor at Putnam, Christine Pepe, said: “What mattered most to Bob were his family and his writing, and those were the only things that he needed to be happy. He will be deeply missed by all us at Putnam, and by his fans everywhere.”The thriller writer Joseph Finder also confirmed the news directly with Parker’s family, said to be “in shock.“And the Bookseller quotes Parker’s UK editor, Nick Johnston: “He was a great talent who will be mourned by all his many fans.”

I’m really not sure how to process this. Not at all. I suppose it’s exactly the way the author best known for his Spenser private detective novels, who by the latter portion of his career was up to publishing three novels a year, working at a five to ten page-a-day clip, should die – doing exactly what he was doing, day in, day out.

He is survived by his wife, Joan, and his sons, David, a choreographer, and Daniel, an actor. Several more novels will be published in 2010, including SPLIT IMAGE, the newest Jesse Stone novel (out February 23) and BLUE-EYED DEVIL, an Appaloosa novel (out on May 4). In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Community Servings, 18 Marbury Terrace, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130. As well, Parker’s literary agent, Helen Brann, told the Associated Press that a private ceremony will take place this

week to remember the author, and a public memorial, a “celebration of

his life and work,” is planned for mid-February in Boston.

Many more tributes will likely roll in over the next day or two, and I’ll be updating this post during that period of time with links to pieces past and present, including:

UPDATE: My own tribute to Robert B. Parker is now online at the Los Angeles Times’ website (and will run in tomorrow’s paper.) Here’s how it opens:

Robert B. Parker, who died Monday in his Cambridge, Mass., home at age

77, spent his final moments doing exactly what he’d done for almost

four decades: sitting at his desk, working on his next novel. He didn’t

concern himself with looking back. Instead, he wrote, and in the

process irrevocably altered American detective fiction, forging a link

between classic depictions and more contemporary approaches to the form.


produced more than five dozen books in a variety of styles, including

westerns, historical fiction, a marriage memoir and a nonfiction

account of horse racing. But the bulk of his writing revolves around

Spenser, the one-named, Korean War vet detective first introduced in

“The Godwulf Manuscript” (1973).

That novel, which Parker

wrote two years after publishing his Boston University doctoral thesis

on the violent heroes of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross

Macdonald, is a clear pastiche of those authors’ works. Parker’s

biggest debt, though, was to Chandler, whose detective, Philip Marlowe,

inspired Spenser’s poet-inflected surname, his noble quest for justice

and his desire to save women from miscreants…

UPDATE 2: Tom Nolan’s tribute in the Wall Street Journal, simply put, knocks it out of the park, and closes with a bang: “The Spenser chronicles were created to be read in the moment. Time

alone knows whether they’ll survive their creator. But one sign of how

important a writer was to us is how death, in an instant, can turn a

name-brand author from taken for granted to one of a kind. Right away,

we miss Robert B. Parker.”

UPDATE 3, 121: More tributes roll in from Marilyn Stasio, Otto Penzler, Michael Carlson, Ethan Iverson and one of Parker’s oldest friends, Gary Goshgarian: “I didn’t know Bob Parker just through his novels. He was my oldest and

closest friend. He introduced me to Kathleen Krueger, my wife of 30

years. With his wife, Joan, we played tennis and double-dated and

traveled to England. We watched each other’s kids grow up. His death is

like the loss of a gravitational force in our lives – something solid

and strong and dependable.”