By Paul A. Sand

Paul A Sand originally posted the following in the Newsgroup rec.arts.mystery after attending a signing in 2001. It is reprinted here with his permission.

This year's vacation was Cape Cod, which (mainly) gave me the opportunity to drive in snarled traffic to various tourist traps. Whee! But one of the free tourist papers had a notice of a Wednesday evening book signing in the Mashpee Commons' Booksmith by Robert B. Parker. I'm a fan, I went. My report is entirely from poor memory, quotes and other details are practically guaranteed inaccurate, but in case anyone's interested, here's what I picked up in terms of news and trivia:

More people came than they had seats, or room for really. More women than I expected: about 65-35 female. And fans. Everybody seemed to know who Joan Parker was.

I expected a hefty dose of self-deprecating humor and zingers, and was not disappointed.

Parker's latest book is _Gunman's Rhapsody_, which is a western, about Wyatt Earp and his days in Tombstone, Arizona. The book started life years ago as a one-page movie treatment. Unfortunately, Parker was pitching this movie in Hollywood at the same time two other Earp movies were in production. one with Kevin Costner ("who at the time was a big star", observed Parker) and one with Kurt Russell. Plus the person to whom they were proposing the movie sat through the presentation, then asked: "Who's Wyatt Earp?" So nothing happened moviewise.

Parker had a contract with his old publisher, Dell, for two "non-genre" novels. But when the first one, _All Our Yesterdays_, "tanked", Dell was a lot less enthusiastic about doing another. So after some money changed hands, Dell released him from this obligation. But the research was done ("And I *never* do research," huffed Parker) so the book lived on.

Putnam, Parker's current publisher, wasn't too enthusiastic about publishing it either. But they did, with minimal publicity (compared to other Parker novels) and no big author tour. So Parker is doing only a few appearances, close to home. Given that, everybody's pleasantly surprised at the generally positive reviews and decent sales. Tom Selleck (currently doing a play in Boston) has expressed interest in doing a movie based on it. (He also has a contract obligation...) Parker was going to see the play the next evening, as a chance to (as he put it) suck up to Selleck.

He also mentioned that the next Spenser movie Walking Shadow will show up on A&E Network on August 26 ("at 8pm, 10pm, midnight, 2am, and 4am. Please watch them all if you're a Nielsen family.") Joe Mantegna as Spenser, Ernie Hudson as Hawk, Marcia Gay Harden as Susan, ("excuse me, *Academy Award Winner* Marcia Gay Harden as Susan--I never used to like her, but now I think she's great.") and Eric Roberts as I assume the Bad Guy.

August 26th is also the Parker's 45th wedding anniversary. Applause here.

Parker has a cameo in Walking Shadow, which started him talking about his previous cameos. He was the mysterious Ives in Small Vices, but didn't much like the experience of having to learn lines and show up early. So he went for a non-speaking part in Thin Air: a cop asleep at a desk, onscreen for a few seconds. Unfortunately, the part was "Fat Cop". He demanded a rewrite (apparently from himself), and the part was changed to "Handsome Cop." In Walking Shadow, he's a janitor, onscreen for even less time. ("Joan says it's my best performance yet.")

Some trivia from the Q&A session:

Spenser's first name? Parker claimed/admitted that he didn't have a clue on this. (Sometimes, though, when someone asks, he says he will ask the questioner's first name. Then: "What a coincidence! That's Spenser's first name too.")

Who's does the best job of portraying Hawk? The immediate response: "Ernie Hudson." But then said that his mental image when Hawk was conceived was pretty much Woody Strode, unfortunately no longer with us.

Parker had nice things to say about Joe Mantegna, who (unlike Robert Urich) had actually read at least the books his movies were based on. Mantegna also worked to put things back into the movie script from the books. (It was pretty clear that this is a way to get on Parker's good side--he had nothing else to say that was particularly complimentary about the other TV/movie "talent" he's worked with.) Was Mantegna the "right type" for Spenser? No, but neither was Bogart right for Marlowe.

What's the B for? Brown (or maybe Browne, I missed the spelling.)

Parker does not read fiction (he claims), save for Elmore Leonard. He's currently reading Simon Schama's book on Rembrandt. ("Not really," he added hastily. "It just sounds good to say I'm reading it.") And something about Freud, didn't catch the title. But it was something that (he said) really made his lips tired.

Parker's current plans are to bring out a Spenser novel every spring, and alternate between Sunny Randall and Jesse Stone novels in the fall. Next then is _Murder in Paradise_ (Jesse Stone) and he was up to page 182 of next spring's Spenser.

He writes five pages a day.

He talked a bit about Sunny Randall. I had heard already that the original idea was this would be a "franchise" movie role for Helen Hunt. He's properly skeptical about whether that will ever happen, but is happy to keep writing them anyway. He said that Joan was a valuable help on writing from a female POV: "We don't call it `rouge' any more, Bob."

All in all, a fun time. I got my copy of _Gunman's Rhapsody_ signed, babbled some incoherent fanboy comments about having read him since 1977 (Mortal Stakes), which he accepted with all good grace possible, given that he's probably heard the same exact thing hundreds of times. Then I went back to driving in the tourist traffic.

Back to the Robert B. Parker article index

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