Friday, May 18, 2012

What We're Reading - Robert B. Parker's Lullaby by Ace Atkins.

I must admit that when I saw that there was a new Spenser novel, Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby, written by Ace Atkins, an author handpicked by the late Parker’s family, I had mixed feelings. Did I want to read it? If so, would it be entertaining? Would the characters feel the same in the hands of another writer? Finally I decided that, yes, I would read it and, having done so, I will admit that Spenser, Susan, Hawk and Boston will survive to entertain us through the coming years.

The concept of another author’s going forth with a deceased author’s characters isn’t new. Look at all of the Sherlock Holmes novels that have been written over the years. Lawrence Sanders's “McNally” lived on through Vincent Lardo, Eric Lustbader continues to write new intrigues for Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne to survive. So, while Lullaby may not be Robert B. Parker, the enjoyment of Parker’s characters in Spenser’s world is still present. In Ace Atkins’s hands, you slip back into the familiar banter between Spenser and Hawk, smile at Pearl The Wonder Dog and meet Mattie, a tough kid seeking justice for her mother's death. You experience amiable enjoyment as wrongs are righted and good deeds done.

It is perhaps fitting that Spenser, and Parker's other character, Jesse Stone, live on in this manner. After all, during Parker's career he himself was chosen to finish a Raymond Chandler story fragment, Poodle Springs, and then wrote Perchance to Dream, a sequel to Chandler’s classic, The Big Sleep. Something nice about that coming full circle with Parker's own characters.

So, just as you don’t read new Sherlock Holmes mysteries expecting them to be Arthur Conan Doyle, you can similarly be okay with Ace Atkins not being Robert B. Parker...as long as Spenser is on the case.

1 comment:

UK said...

Like all of us Spenser fans, I anticipated this book with both excitement and concern. I am delighted to report that Atkins pulls off the seeming impossible here by giving us what I would call the best Spenser novel in years. I can't be sure, of course, but I suspect Parker began this book and Atkins finished it. I admit there are a few times when I sensed that maybe Parker wouldn't quite say it that way, or that the book seemed more like an early Spenser novel than the sparse gems of late. Hawk sometimes seems a little different. But I also could be wrong. What I will say is that I felt Ace Atkins took this awesome project on with full dedication and commitment. I imagined him thinking that he was trying to both do the series justice while maybe doing it better than Parker could. The result is an outstanding crime novel that is thrilling to read. I can't wait now for the next one! (And that's another way this book is like one by Parker!)