Death Lit: More on Parker

Terry Zobeck and I have been working behind the scenes to polish up some of his “pure texts” posts, in particular his first shot at it for “This King Business.” Looking it over again, Terry realized he’d left any changes to the chapter headings out of the mix, plus a more careful examination of the crumbling pulp pages brought forth a couple of other corrections. Point being, if you’re one of the people who care for these niceties and printed out a version of those changes before July 2, go back now and print out a new, even more corrected version — it’s as close to what Hammett wrote as we can determine. And our apologies for the back-tracking — our scrappy guerilla action advances in sudden raids, rallies in riotous retreats. . . .

As we were working up these changes, on the side I found that Terry is a big fan of Parker and Spenser, and like various other people doesn’t much like the idea of Ace Atkins (or anybody, not just good old Ace) carrying on with the Spenser character. The way I look at it, if Parker had wanted to set himself up as a literary writer whose ouevre should be left alone, he should never have written his two fake Raymond Chandler novels — reading a page or two in those was more painful than I could take at the time, so I figure Parker is fair game for whatever his estate authorizes. If you are a Spenser purist, hey, don’t read the Ace titles. Since I have no interest in the original Spenser novels, though, I am more likely to read a couple by Ace to see what he does with it all.

And as for the Parker novels based on Hammett that Ace mentioned (since I haven’t read them, the titles just went in one ear and out the other), Terry tells me that the classic Op yarn “The Gutting of Couffignal” inspired Rough Weather (but that in the course of the action “Spenser does not read any M.P. Shiel” — now, that would have been a great in-joke!). What Parker did was divide the “Couffignal” plot, with Rough Weather covering the idea of guarding wedding presents and the Jesse Stone novel Trouble in Paradise taking the concept of an island community under siege — as Terry puts it, “A bunch of crooks knock over a rich enclave, Stiles Island, separated from Paradise, MA — Jesse Stone’s town — by a bridge.” Yep, that’s “Couffignal.”

The novel inspired by the Op tale “Corkscrew,” Terry reports, is Potshot: “I think Parker enjoyed writing about the western setting of Potshot so much, he created his western series featuring Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. They are quite good.” I hear various people talking about how his westerns are perhaps the best work Parker ever did. Interesting that a tribute to Hammett may have moved him in that direction.

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