By Bob Ames
In October 2001 Parker did a book tour after the publication of "Death in Paradise." One of the places he hit was a Borders store just down the street from me and I typed up the following notes that night.
First of all, remember that this occurred the month following the events of 9/11 and everyone was a bit more on guard than usual. Just before the posted starting time two competent looking men in blazers walked into the Borders bookstore and made sure the room was secure. We apparently looked harmless enough so they went out and escorted in the main attraction.
Robert Brown Parker came in dressed to the nines. He explained that following the signing he was attending a benefit at the Wang center in support of Alzheimer's research. Since his wife Joan was a big supporter of the cause he decided that doing so would increase his chances of having sex once more in this lifetime. "With so much at stake maybe I'll just leave now."
Parker has over thirty years of experience speaking in front of a crowd of fans and was relaxed and comfortable, ignoring the lame sound system and walking back in forth in front of the dais as he talked. He's said it all before and if you visit my Background Info page you will find every point he brought up about his history as a Doctoral student, college professor, advertising man, writer, and family man.
He thinks the A&E movies are pretty bad, but with a total budget of 3 to 4 million you can only do so much. He announced that he was out of the movie business, but left open the possibility of one more, "Hugger Mugger", but only if they got some outside money from foreign markets to supplement the A&E budget.
The Sunny Randall picture with Helen Hunt is still in development. By the third draft the screenwriter had changed Rosie from a miniature bull terrier to a cocker spaniel, which he seemed to think was amusing but disgusting.
As a side note I noticed one of his catch phrases. He cares for his sons so much that sometimes he could hardly breath. So said Susan to Spenser in "Valediction," Grace to Chris in "All Our Yesterdays" and Jenn to Jesse in "Murder in Paradise."
In the question period he noted that "Spenser: For Hire" died because of studio politics. The show lasted for three seasons and was poised to begin a fourth when money factors raised their ugly heads. An executive can earn big money if his show enters a fourth year and qualifies for syndication, or he can get a large amount if his new show is produced. A new honcho took over and had to decide between keeping S:FH to enrich his predecessor or instead giving the time slot to a show developed on his watch, "China Beach."
I can't tell if the next questioner was clueless or naive, but he had to explain that he hasn't abandoned Spenser and a new one appears every year like clockwork and these other books are in addition to them. Why did he start the new series'? Because a Spenser book takes only four or five months to write and "I don't play golf."
To the next question he tried to explain the difference between the first person voice of the Spenser novels and the third person of the Jesse Stone books, noting that you could say things in one that you couldn't in the other.
There were several people in the signing line who obviously trotted in every book in their collection hoping for a signature. I didn't really notice how many he signed, as I beat a hasty retreat to my car and brought in the prizes of my collection. He signed my first edition copy of "Pastime" with the notorious typo "2976 feet" to the right field screen at Ebbets Field and, to his surprise, a copy of "New Crimes 3" which contains his only Spenser short story, "Surrogate." It was obviously an agent/publisher/legal advisor type of thing and he had no idea it had been reprinted.
Funny story I had never heard before: Playboy contacted him and asked for a story, which he did not want to supply because he didn't write short stories. Finally he relented and wrote "Surrogate." They rejected it. First and only time he has ever had a manuscript rejected. It wound up being published in a men's magazine whose name he would not mention in mixed company (see note below.) They began the story in a long skinny column and jumped to the remainder, leaving the rest of that page for a large add for crotchless mouse suits. The punch line: "I'm not even sure what that is. I didn't know mice wore suits."
All in all an evening with Parker is a great way to spend the night.