Robert B. Parker, who died at his desk, was working on a Spenser novel

The sudden death Jan. 18 of crime-genre master Robert B. Parker caught everyone by surprise, including Helen Brann, his agent of 37 years. “It was a complete shock to all of us,” Brann told EW. “His wife, Joan, had breakfast with him [Monday] morning, went out for her walk, came back an hour later, and he was sitting at his writing desk, dead.”

According to Brann, Parker was 30-40 pages into a new novel featuring Spenser, his iconic Boston-based PI, when he suffered what appears to be a fatal heart attack. However, due to his notorious prolific writing habit, there is substantial Parker material still to be published. According to Chris Pepe, his longtime editor at Putnam, there are two books set for release early this year (Split Image, a mystery featuring Jesse Stone, will be out next month, while Blue-Eyed Devil, a Western, hits bookstores later this spring) as well as a couple more in the pipeline. Brann says the author’s tremendous productivity was due to his strict, Updikean writing rate of five pages a day.

“Anybody that has that kind of output, some books are better than others,” she admits. “They weren’t all at the peak of his form, but many were. And at his peak form, he couldn’t be beat. If there’s any justice in the world, he’s got to be up there with the best. With Hammett, Chandler, MacDonald, and all them.”

But it wasn’t just his command of the genre that made him such an important figure. His influence helped birth an entire new generation of novelists. “Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly are just two people who I see must have gotten something from him,” says Pepe. “I honestly just don’t see how there’s a working crime writer today who hasn’t learned something from Robert Parker.”

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  • nancy miller

    I am so sad. Our Pearl was named after his pup…

    • Kat

      I’m so sad too. ADORED his Spenser, “spelled like the poet.” What a loss. What a great great writer. Thank you, Mr. Parker. Flights of angels.

    • David E Hunt


      I was wondering why I haven’t been able to find a Spenser novel yet this year.I just found out why this is the case.
      Is there one last Spenser case to be solved?


  • Me

    Desk desk?? Check the headline!

    • Megumi

      Oh my… looks like a rlleay bad collection of cards to hold if you belong to a particular family, huh? Now I *have* to see how you wrap this all up in #3!

  • kparker

    I have read every book he wrote, and even met him at a book signing. His writing style was direct, clever and engaging…I will miss reading his books

  • Kathy Parker

    What will be all do without his fictional characters Susan, Hawk, Jesse, Sunny??? So many things will die with him

    • Susan

      I predict somebody will continue at least the Spenser series…

  • Samuel

    I am saddened by Mr. Parker’s death. I learned of him through the Spenser series on television, and read all of his Spenser books, and many others, too. I love mystery/detective stories, and I have read what are considered some of the best, by what are considered the top writers of that genre. Robert B. Parker was for me the most interesting and entertaining of all the writers of that type of work that I have read. My condolences to his wife, family, and fans all over the world.

    To Robert B. Parker: Thanks for the wonderful ride!

  • Carol

    I am so very saddened by the death of Mr. Parker, my favorite author. I too have ready every book two or three times each. He has entertained me for so many years. I will miss him dearly.

  • SKZ

    I am extremely sad to read of the death of Mr.Parker. His wry sense of humour and his ability to not end of every novel with the typical bad guy goes to jail ending. Clever and innovative, he will be greatly missed by his many fans. My condolences to his family, friends and his readers.

  • Larry Tigerman

    I was an early admirer of Mr. P. I
    started at the beginning with Spenser’s first mystery back around 1973 and continued on and on. I have also enjoyed the Jesse Stone novels & how Tom Selleck brought him to life.

    As I would wait for the new
    book(s)to be published, I’d read other mystery writers and many are all right but ALWAYS ENJOYED
    what came from Robert B. Parker.

    I feel like I lost many of my best friends in one day.

    I don’t know, and hope this doesn’t sound bad/selfish but I wonder if someone out there in the future will (with the family’s blessing,) will continue to keep his beloved characters alive…??

    My sympathy to the family and to fellow-Robert B. Parker admirers.

    Larry Tigerman
    Kansas City, MO.

  • Michael Scharff

    Wow – this is the first I had heard of Mr. Parker’s passing, and I am completely blown away by this news. My sympathies go out to his wife Joan, to whom (if I remember correctly), he dedicated every book he ever wrote.
    I wish someone in Howllywood would bring Spenser, Susan, and Hawk back to television.

    • Mark Howard

      There are at least a dozen Parker novels that would make great screenplays for feature films, or a series of them. I, too, don’t want the characters of Spenser, Susan, Hawk, Lt. Quirk, Sgt. Belson, Vinnie Morris and all the rest to vanish from my literary life. Goes for Jesse Stone and the Paradise crew, too. My head spins with the list of actors and actresses who could do justice to Parker’s characters.

  • EF

    I was shocked by the news of Mr. Parker’s death. I will miss Spencer very much.

  • Rachel

    Parker’s characters are like old and well-loved friends. They seemed so real to me…Spenser, Jesse Stone. In the end, he was doing what he loved. Writing. He will be missed by so many.

  • Adam

    I hope those last pages he wrote are somehow published – maybe as addendum to his last complete novel? It would be wonderful to get one last chance to visit with Spenser again, even if just for a couple of chapters. [As Parker devotees probably know, he never worked with outlines, so there’s little chance of another author “finishing” the story, at least not in the way he would have.]

  • jack

    Such a great loss. I can’t imagine not being able to enjoy yet another entertaining story with Spenser, Susan, Hawk, and Jesse Stone. Thoughts and prayers to his family.

  • Persus

    I am so so saddened to hear of my favorite novelist’s death. I’ll miss Spenser more than you know. You were one of a kind. I will dearly miss you, my friend…on the wings of angels may you ride…xoxo

  • Michael Egan

    Very saddened to hear of his passing. I have read all of his books and even named my son after his character Spenser with the same spelling. He is now 10 and proud to know he was named after his father’s favorite character. Best wishes go out to his family and friends!

    • Alex

      I named my son Spenser too with the same spelling! And when I’m asked his name for forms I always say “Spenser,with an S, like the poet.” He’s only two now but he will know for whom he was named.

      • Josh & Kelly

        We also named our son Spenser after the character. He is now five and we can’t wait to introduce him to the novels. Robert B Parker’s passing is a great loss and our thoughts go to his family and friends.

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