Radio Wolinsky

The Probabilities Archive: Robert B. Parker (1932-2010), the early Spenser novels, 1981

Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) is known today as one of the most important writers of detective fiction during the final quarter of the 20th Century. His wise cracking Boston private eye, Spenser, Spenser’s sidekick Hawk, and girlfriend Susan Silverman have become iconic figures. When Parker died at the age of 77 in 2010, 38 Spenser novels had been published. Two more came out posthumously, and a third was completed by his agent. Novelist Ace Atkins has now written nine more Spenser novels. The series Spenser for Hire, starring Robert Urich and Avery Brooks ran for three seasons, and Brooks had a spin-off that ran for half a season, A Man Called Hawk. Several television movies were also made from Parker’s Spenser books, the most recent, Spenser Confidential, is actually based on one of Ace Atkins’ Spenser novels.

This interview, hosted by Richard Wolinaky and Lawrence Davidson, was recorded in the spring of 1981 while Robert B. Parker was on tour for his novel, Early Autumn, and marked the first Probabilities interview with a mystery writer. His career hadn’t advanced under his first publisher, Houghton-Mifflin, and he switched to Delacorte, and Parker’s audience began to grow. This was his seventh Spenser novel, and his eighth over all (Wilderness had come out late in 1980 and Looking for Rachel Wallace was his first under the new contract. At the time of the interview, his first five novels were all out of print in paperback.

Though he says in the interview his detective fiction would be limited to the Spenser series, eventually he branched out to write another series of nine books featuring Jesse Stone, a former LAPD detective who becomes the police chief in a small New Enngland town, and six novels featuring Sunny Randall, a female detective. Eventually there was some crossover between the three series. Along the way, he also wrote a handful of westerns, the Cole and Hitch series, and two books featuring Raymond Chandler’s detective, Philip Marlow. When Parker died in 2010 of a sudden heart attack, the family decided to let other writers continue the Spenser, Stone and western series, which go on to this day.

The recording was digitized, remastered and re-edited in November 2021.