[This is the "New" Bullets and Beer FAQ page posted on Sept. 26, 2001 by Bob Ames, explaining the transition of the site from Mike Loux to Bob.]
How did this web site originate?
- An amazing young man named Mike Loux set out to track down the minutiae of the Spenser novels written by Robert B. Parker. Because they are filled with memorable lines and obscure references to literature known only to those holding advanced degrees (as does Dr. Parker) it was a daunting task. The original site received several awards and was mentioned in such august publications as TV Guide and Playboy magazine.
The pages have been gone for a while. What happened?
- Mike apparently heeded the advise one so often hears to "get a life." He is now married, working at building a house, concentrating on his job, and doing other tedious things. The Spenser page requires free time that he no longer has.
So who's in charge here?
- My name is Bob Ames, and I will be your host this evening.
How did this change come about?
- It's mostly because I refused to let the idea die. Mike started posting his research many years ago, and for various reasons changed ISP's a few times. Many web pages out there still point to NECA, where his pages went away some years ago. From there he moved to Downcity, and put up the skeleton of a web page. Unfortunately, none of the information about the books ever appeared there. In fact, the last update of any kind was an entry made on May 11,1998. I noted that he had changed ISP's and started a new job and I was prepared to wait, keeping the bookmark on the back burner.
- A year passed and nothing happened. I grew worried. The E-mail link bounced my messages back at me. I searched the web for any activity by Mike Loux. Nothing. The more I poked around the more I became convinced that he had left this world, and that his wonderful site was gone forever.
- So I decided to recreate it from scratch. I lined up all twenty-six books in a slightly wobbly pile and set out to re-read them, taking copious notes. It took a while. When I finished Hush Money I went back to The Godwulf Manuscript and began a second read-through to pick up what I had missed before. This ain't a task for sissies.
- A funny thing happened then. Every once in a while I would take time off from researching obscure literary references in the novels and try to pin down the last recorded postings of the former host. Suddenly I found the long lost pages. Not the most current updates that had existed, mind you, but more like backup files. And there was still no working E-mail link. Of course I downloaded the HTML files and used them as a base to build upon, but the second reading went on. Six solid months of reading and research.
What gives you the right to republish Mike's stuff?
- That was the part that really troubled me. On the one hand Mike had worked for years on this project and deserved the credit. On the other, it had disappeared from the web and I thought the only way to bring it back was to tack on my research and re-post it, with suitable warnings that it was not my idea or original effort.
- As I was putting the finishing touches on these pages and trying to nail down the last date he had ever posted anything, my search engine found one little shiny new link. Mike, like the truth, is out there! Of course that changed everything. I E-mailed him and offered to send over my research so that he could update his pages.
- The man is a class act, I'll tell you that. As noted above, he has quite a busy life nowadays. Not only did he turn down my offer, but he officially gave me permission to become the new keeper of the flame, and edit the pages any way I wished. So for better or worse, here they are. If you would like to visit Mike he is now located at www.winky.com
How do I tell what has been added to the original pages?
- The original text of Mike's archives are printed in black. Any additions I made I have colored in red, as I will contributions from others if they eventually stream in. [Note: We haven't preserved this color-coding system in the 2015 Wikia version.] Starting with Sudden Mischief all of the postings are my own, and it's back to basic black. If you have questions about anything on these pages please note which of us posted it. That only applies to the books, of course. The supporting pages are the work of my own somewhat twisted imagination.
What changes have been made to the original format?
- Mike included a "Broo List" of the various brands of beers that Spenser mentioned. In my reading I noted all references to alcoholic consumption. I figured that a beer at the bar, wine or champagne with dinner, or sips from the office bottle deserved equal attention, so I have included the category Drinks. Since Dr. Parker also carefully noted just about everything our favorite guy ingests I had to include a category I labeled Food. Whether it's an Italian sub eaten while driving, a sackful of burgers, or an elegantly presented meal I thought they deserved mention. I have seen a lot of talk about a Spenser cookbook over the years. Maybe for my next project, or for readers who have more time to spend in the kitchen experimenting than I do.
- Mike was in the middle of reformatting the later pages when life distracted him. I liked the spiral notebook theme he had come up with, but converting the rest of the pages to it was far beyond my capabilities. I did borrow a nicely done frame structure he had come up with to put the publisher's references in and researched them all from scratch.
- I added several refinements to the pages. Any quote that had shown up three or more times has been moved to a page I call Oft Quoted. This reduced the confusion of multiple links back to an earlier book where the question was answered. I also gathered a select handful of the works RBP has taken his quotes from and presented them on a page I call Poetry. Finally, I gathered up the rest of my unfound quotations and threw them open to visitors in a section entitled The Quotes are Out There. Join in the fun.
How have you tracked down the many obscure references in these books?
- Search engines. I used to use AltaVista almost exclusively, but their recent change in format makes them almost useless for my more obscure searches. Having to scroll down to find out that there are no matches pisses me off, and their folders are useless for my purposes. Northernlight.com is one of current favorites, with a percentage given as to how close a match is available and sub folders that actually mean something, but recently I've been having even better luck with Google. The key to any of the above is learning to refine your search with quotation marks, Boolean operators, and a bit of common sense.
- As to the others, I suppose it depends on your search style. I know people who swear by Yahoo, Excite, or Ask Jeeves. Being somewhat open minded I called on all of them occasionially, and not once did they deliver what I was looking for.
The presentation of these pages is somewhat dull, don't you think?
- Yep, and it's going to stay that way. No banners, no twirling logos, no little animated figure with a shovel to tell you that the site is under construction. I got sick of time-wasting eye candy years ago, and I detest waiting for unnecessary Java code to download.
- I had never thought about publishing a web site before because, let's face it, there are enough useless vanity pages out there to choke endless herds of horses. It was only when I had some content I thought might be useful to others that I forced myself to learn the rudiments of Front Page.
What exactly do the buttons on the book pages point to?
- Since I had more categories to cover than Mike did I had to make my own batch of buttons.
- Pub Info: publication information, ISBN numbers and such whatnot.
- Cover: the blurb written on the flyleaf of the hardcover or the obverse of the paperback. Some are quite good, others painfully lame.
- Players: the reoccuring characters. AKA the usual suspects.
- Questions: occasionally there are little questions that are left unanswered.
- Lit Ref: literary references, or as Mike so aptly phrased it "The Annotated Gumshoe." RBP loves to sprinkle little phrases throughout his novels, usually reworded just enough to foil a search engine. By far the longest part of my research.
- Universe: elsewhere in the Spenser universe. How this book adds to our knowledge of his world.
- Favorites: the best lines out of the book. Usually the funny ones, but sometimes the thought provoking ones.
- Food: RBP loves to detail Spenser's eating habits. I thought they deserved their own category.
- Drink: same here. Mike had noted the names of the beers Spenser drank, but since alcohol plays a part in many of the stories I decided to list every unnamed beer, bottle of wine or champagne, or slugs from the office bottle.
- Notes: little chunks of information that don't fit anywhere else.
Can I contribute my own thoughts and research?
- There is nothing I would like better. One of the best things about Mike's pages was that he cheerfully asked for help and posted the responses. I'm certain I missed a lot of things, or came away with the wrong results from my research, and any help is gladly appreciated. Write up your thoughts and send them here. Operators are standing by.
- By the way, please don't send anything but E-mail unless you tell me about it first because I do not open attachments from strangers. Ever. Not only that but I throw them unopened into BCWipe, a freeware utility that deletes them and overwrites the disk space to Department Of Defense standards. Visit the company at http://www.jetico.com to find out more. You can't be too careful nowadays.
Where is the best place to find the more obscure volumes?
- My local library has a web site that allows me to have books from most of eastern Massachusetts shipped to the branch closest to me. See if yours does the same. There is a local chain that deals in used paperbacks called Annie's Book Swap in my area, and it's where I have gotten most of my paperbacks. See if there is something like that near you. And of course you can always count on www.amazon.com. and the used book source www.bibliofind.com. Also see the online sources which appear on my Links page.
The portable Spenser
- The audio versions of these books vary widely in style and quality. I've listened to most of what is available, ranging from 8 tape unabridged versions to 2 tape quickies. The best of the voice actors can make you believe that Spenser is sitting across from you and recounting his adventures. David Dukes (the actor, not the racist; note the spelling) does a really good job in that respect. The later novels were being read by Burt Reynolds who, to my ears, sounds like an actor reading from a script. Badly.
- In an interview on a local radio station Dr. Parker noted that he liked Burt personally, and later mentioned that he had never listened to any of the tapes.
- As noted in Pale Kings and Princes, the worst one was the Simon and Schuster audio cassettes of that book read by David Purdham. The mispronunciations of the "Quabbin" reservoir are pure torture to me.
- Joe Mantegna, who stars in the A&E movies, is now the designated reader. I am somewhat ambivalent on the subject but he's not that bad.
That's not what RBP said a few novels ago. What gives?
- One of my other favorite authors, Lois McMaster Bujold, was once asked about some details that didn't quite agree with events in an earlier novel. She stated that as an author she reserved the right to come up with a better idea. I would extend the same courtesy to Dr. Parker. As an example, if having Spenser delivered by Caesarian section after his mother died in an accident and being raised in an all male household better explains his outlook on life I won't quibble with earlier references that suggest otherwise. Of course, I will take note of them, but I'm not troubled by them.
Where are the links to Robert Urich and Avery Brooks?
- I get my kicks from reading books. I have never seen the TV series or movies, nor do I plan to do so in the future. There have never been actors born who could match my internal image of these characters.
- RPB has admitted that the TV adaptation introduced a different universe for his characters. As I understand it, Susan and Spenser lived together in a converted firehouse somewhere in Boston. Exactly how many plotlines from the novels does this completely contradict?
- I mean no offense to the actors, of course. Avery Brooks can command Deep Space 9 in reruns forever as far as I am concerned, and I'll keep watching. Mr. Urich is very good but in my mind he is definitely not Spenser.
Do you mean you couldn't ever imagine these people played by actors?</p>
- Yes, but only in a sick and twisted way. As soon as I saw a certain movie poster I flashed on our intrepid crew.
- Find it here and forgive me.
What's this I hear about a conspiracy to shut your site down?
- No, think nothing of it. Why even now there are two men in black suits who have come to talk with me about my future plans. I bet they're big fans of the books who...
So, will you be expanding the Spenser site?
- Do I know you? And who is this "Spenser" person you keep raving about?