Robert B. Parker, whose spare, eloquent sentences turned the tough private investigator Spenser into one of Boston's most recognizable fictional characters, died in his Cambridge home Monday. He was 77.
Robert B. Parker (AP file photo/2006)
Publishing 65 books in 37 years, Mr. Parker was as prolific as he was well-read. He featured Spenser -- "spelled with an 's,' just like the English poet," he said -- in 37 detective novels. He also wrote 28 other books, including a series each for Jesse Stone, the police chief of fictional Paradise, Mass., and Sunny Randall, a female PI in Boston.
His latest book is "Split Image," part of the Jesse Stone series, and is due out next month, his agent, Helen Brann of New York City, said today.
Mr. Parker's marquee character became a TV series, "Spenser for Hire," starring Robert Urich. "Jesse Stone" became a TV vehicle for Tom Selleck, and "Appaloosa," his 2005 Western, was made into a 2008 movie directed by and starring Ed Harris.
"He was a master of the genre, as many have noted," said Brann, who has represented Mr. Parker for 42 years. "And he was the most fun, the most real, highly intelligent, witty, down-to-earth, warm, endearing guy I've ever known. I adored him."
Mr. Parker died at his writing desk, Brann said. Tests are pending, she added, but it appears that Mr. Parker suffered a heart attack Monday morning while his wife, Joan, was out of their house.
"She saw him early in the morning, went out for her exercise, came back an hour later, and he was gone," Brann said. "He was at his desk, as he so often was."
Pounding out up to five pages a day, Mr. Parker kept a pace few could match. Pressed for his secret, he made it sound simple.
"The art of writing a mystery is just the art of writing fiction," he told the Globe in 2007. "You create interesting characters and put them into interesting circumstances and figure out how to get them out of them. No one is usually surprised at the outcome of my books."
Perhaps, but millions of readers around the world raced through book after book.In addition to his wife, with whom he shared a sprawling house in Cambridge walking distance from Harvard Square, Mr. Parker leaves two sons, David and Daniel.
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