Helen Brann, Robert B. Parker’s longtime agent, has completed the final Spenser novel, Silent Night.
How did this book come about?
Putnam was excited about the idea of a Christmas-themed Spenser novel that would be shorter than usual. Bob, in his customary way, agreed in about 30 seconds. He was working on it the morning he died of a sudden heart attack. In those first days after his death, Joan, his wife and my good friend, and I were on the phone a great deal, much of the time talking about Bob’s books and the future of them. The “Christmas book” came up. Joan wondered what would become of it. Without thinking, I said that maybe I could finish it.
What was the hardest part?
Attempting to write as much in the style that Bob Parker created as possible. When I was writing the first draft, I experienced a kind of mixture of grief, disbelief, and bizarre joy in the writing of a Spenser book. I didn’t stop to reread it until I had finished. It was then that I started having self-doubt about whether I could pull this off.
What is it about Spenser—and his creator—that accounts for his decades of appeal?
In an uncertain world, Spenser lives by his code, and so did Bob. It gives both the character and the man a center that’s eternally sought after. On the surface, they are men of few acerbic words, backed up by the love of silly humor, good food, drink, and a deep, abiding, complicated love for a woman—Susan Silverman for Spenser, Joan Parker for Bob. There are other loves—love of sons, baseball, a succession of Pearl dogs, and a very few other people. And beneath the surface, there’s that code of honor, which is never spoken of, but which informs Spenser’s deeds throughout the novels as he helps those who need help. For Bob, loyalty, chivalry, and courage were more than words.
What was Parker like to work with?
He was fun, because he was funny. Bob was a brilliant man, and it made working for and with him easy. He wrote because he was a very gifted writer, and because he wanted to be able to give his family everything he or they could think of. He cared about the money I was able to get for his work. He didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about the details of his contracts—he trusted me. He was usually writing two or three books at a time, and he would tell me that he considered writing “a job. I don’t wait for inspiration. I can’t afford to.”