Robert B. Parker, sometimes referred to as the Dean of American Crime Fiction, is the author of more than thirty novels featuring Spenser, the famously tough but refined private detective who can just as easily bust up thugs and crime rings as curl up with his longtime girlfriend Susan Silverman and their lovely child, Pearl the Wonder Dog.
I caught up with Mr. Parker before a book signing at Vromanâ€™s Bookstore in Pasadena, California on March 13, 2005. â€śThey make me do these things,â€ť he said in reference to the book touring life, in mock grumble.
In this first part of the interview, Mr. Parker talks about his pre-novelist days, the magical fictional presence that is Hawk, writing â€śblack,â€ť the future of Spenser and Susan, and the latest installment of the Spenser series, Cold Service.
Eric Berlin: I donâ€™t know if anyoneâ€™s ever told you this before, but I assumed for many years that you were a cop and/or private detective.
Robert B. Parker: The question has been raised, yes. Iâ€™ve been neither.
EB: And then, of course, I learned you have a background in academics, which sort of led me toâ€¦
RBP: Ooh! Youâ€™re gonna let that out? [Laughs]
EB: We can edit that out if you like.
RBP: Iâ€™ve gone straight. I had a job in a lot of things before I finally found a job I could hold, including academe. But the academe was in the service of writing.
I had married young and had children early, and if I had to do it over again I would have married earlier and had children earlier. It was the best thing I ever did, but I had to support them. And I canâ€™t write in little dribs and drabs â€“ I need a large blocks of time, so Joan [Ed. Note: Joan is Mr. Parkerâ€™s wife] prevailed upon me after I had worked for Curtiss-Wright Aircraft and Raytheon Missile Systems division and Prudential Insurance Company of Americaâ€¦ enough to make a maggot gag. Anyway, she prevailed upon me to go back to school and get a PhD and become a professor, which I eventually did. Then I had long hours of interrupted time to write.