Gather around, girls and boys, and I will tell you the story of a very prolific author who created several wonderful sets of characters beloved by many, many readers. His name was Robert B. Parker, and, as you may have guessed from the verb, Mr. Parker died suddenly in the middle of his writing career in 2010. One might think that the author’s passing would end his list of books. But in the case of Mr. Parker, we seem to have a post-season rally. The Parker estate has blessed several writers to continue with Parker’s western series, the Jesse Stone series, and the Spenser series.
Having been a rabid Spenser fan, I have read every Spenser novel and marveled at the sure-fire dialogue between Spenser and Hawk, laughed at the political incorrectness of it all, and smiled at the leisurely relationships among Spenser, Susan Silverman, and Pearl the Wonder Dog. I’ve loved the cooking discussions, the wine labels, Susan’s penchant for the finer things in life, and Spenser’s flare for literary quotations.
The plots not so much.
I didn’t like his novels for the plots (they were a bit thin), as much as for the characters and dialogue. So I was delighted when Ace Atkins took over his books and wrote two wonderful Spenser novels that had everything I loved plus great plots. Lullaby and Wonderland both remind me of the old Spenser stories but with more intricate plots. I have to admit I haven’t read the Jesse Stone book ghostwritten by Michael Brandman called Damned If You Do. I should put a disclaimer in here somewhere, right?
I was browsing through Sunset Library in Chandler, Arizona, when I found a new novella, a Christmas book, written by yet another ghost writer. This time Parker’s longtime agent, Helen Braan, finished a Christmas story Parker had begun. It is short—more like a novella—and can be read in a single sitting. If you like the characters—Spenser, Hawk, and Susan—you will enjoy the story and see Spenser put the world back to right again.
It’s Christmas time in the neighborhoods of Boston and on their streets. An 11-year-old street urchin named Slide starts the story off when he comes to Spenser’s office asking help for his friend, Jackie Alvarez. Alvarez runs an unlicensed shelter for boys called Street Business. It is a home that gives the boys jobs, takes them off the street, and is somewhat self-sustaining. Jackie’s older brother, Juan Alvarez, backs it financially and this is where the problems begin. Someone is trying to run Jackie, the do-gooder, out of the neighborhood and they aren’t afraid to use force. Spenser, always the white knight in times of trouble, decides to look into it and he enlists Hawk as his usual backup.
Along the way the reader gets to hear the typical Spenser details about his Christmas menu (this time turduken), cooking preparations, wines, and restaurants around Boston.
Critics of the book are quick to point out that it doesn’t have as many violent encounters with the bad guys and the dialogue is a bit off from the usual Parker template. I can’t argue with that.
However, if you’re still having a love affair with the characters, you need a quick Christmas read these holidays, and you are NOT a Spenser purist, you will probably like this novella called Silent Night: A Spenser Novel.