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Robert and Joan Parker in younger days. Susan is clearly modeled on Joan.

“Has anyone ever told you," I said, "that you coalesce reality?"
"No. They only say that I'm good in the sack."
"They are accurate but limited," I said. "And if you give me their names I'll kill them.”

Susan Silverman (née Hirsch) appears in God Save the Child and is present in every Spenser book afterwards. She's the center of his universe, for better or worse.

When Susan first appears she is a school guidance counselor. Over the following several books she takes courses at Harvard, eventually earning a PhD in psychology and becoming a renowned psychologist in Cambridge. Many of her clients work in law enforcement. In her initial appearance Spenser says she "wasn't beautiful," but in later books her appearance is always described as superlative.

Her character is controversial among some Spenser fans. On the one hand, she is a valuable sounding board for Spenser, offering intelligent and empathetic insight into the psychological motivations both of Spenser's clients and adversaries, as well as Spenser himself. On the other hand, at times she is somewhat vain, self-absorbed, insecure, and fiercely - if not self-destructively - independent. She repeatedly introduces elements of tension into Spenser's life, through her own desire to 'find herself' emotionally and professionally, and at times has difficulty with the rougher aspects of Spenser's cases.

Not every Spenser fan likes his romance with Susan (Click here for Bob's take on "The Susan Question.") TV executives weren't sure what to do with her either, dropping her character from the "Spenser: For Hire" TV show after the first two seasons. Readers who like Spenser's wry quips, quick right hook, and noir-esque philosophical musing are sometimes put off by the perennial declarations of love and fidelity between the two, which can seem out of place. But love, and the ability to love, is a cornerstone of Spenser's moral code. He consciously differentiates his own violent behavior and moral compass from that of his peers with his ability to love Susan. (He also thinks much more highly of anyone who he perceives to be capable of a genuinely loving relationship.)

Susan is often compared to RBP's wife Joan. There are certainly many similarities, and Spenser and Susan's relationship is in many ways a close analogue to that of the Parkers. But Susan is not simply a copy of the author's wife. In a 2000 interview, RBP explained:

"...she's annoying, and that's on purpose. I didn't want Ms. Perfection. She's also pretentious. Joan doesn't like her too much, and Joan gets very annoyed at being compared with her."

Susan Silverman is Parker's answer to the question, "What kind of person could both deserve and survive the kind of romantic attention Spenser can provide?" As such, she's a cornerstone of the series.


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