Mike Fleming

Late author Robert B. Parker’s estate has announced that his signature Spenser and Jesse Stone mystery novel series will continue. Parker died at his home in Cambridge, Mass., on Jan. 18, 2010 at age 77. Michael Brandman, who has co-written and produced the CBS TV movies that feature Tom Selleck as the tortured alcoholic detective Stone, will write the first Stone novel. Titled  Robert B. Parker’s Killing the Blues, it will be published Sept. 13, 2011.

Brandman goes way back with Parker, and aside from the Stone telepics, he also produced three Spenser novel adaptations for A&E. Parker’s earlier Spenser novels  formed the basis for the Spenser For Hire series that starred Robert Urich, and his Western series was turned into the Ed Harris-Viggo Mortensen pic Appaloosa. The new Spenser novels will be written by Ace Atkins, who has written such novels as White Shadow, Infamous and Wicked City. His first Spenser novel will be releases spring of 2012. Parker’s 39th and final Spenser novel, Sixkill, will be released by GP Putnam in May. It looks like Parker’s lone female detective series based on Sunny Randall might be done. Parker created that series with the intention of it being turned into a feature film series at Sony Pictures, with Helen Hunt right after that actress won the Oscar in 1997 for As Good As It Gets. The film series never got off the ground, but Parker kept writing the books.

Parker was one of my favorite authors, and though you never felt that Spenser, Hawk, Susan Silverman or Jesse Stone were ever in any real danger they couldn’t handle, his sparse prose and his hardened heroes went down as comforting and familiar as chicken soup. Not sure how I’ll feel about continuing with either series done by another author: I stopped being interested in Journey when Steve Perry left the band and haven’t read another Jason Bourne mystery since Robert Ludlum died or 007 since Ian Fleming died. I’ve always found it hard to latch onto successors who didn’t put in the sweat and struggle to create the characters or the  songs that made for the original successes, and that has always turned me off. But this is big business, and it’s worth it for the estate and Putnam to try keeping Parker’s distinctive brands alive. I just don’t think anybody else can write them like he did.

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