Oh, Parker. I swear, there must have been a standard in the 70s (1974, to be exact) where 25% of a detective novel had to be description. I think it’s driving Jilly nuts over in Kinsey Malone-land, but I’m finding Parker’s version of it kind of eye-watering. I mean, my idea of dressing myself back then was Garanimals, so I shouldn’t judge. But just you try and see this:
He was dressed in what must have been his wife’s idea of the contemporary look… He had on baggy white cuffed flares, a solid scarlet shirt with long collar points, a wide pink tie, and a red-and-white-plaid seersucker jacket with wide lapels and the waist nipped. A prefolded handkerchief in his breast pocket matched the tie. He had on black and white saddle shoes and looked as happy as a hound in a doggie sweater.
That’s just the start, though; later in the book, Spenser puts on a white trench coat. Spiffy! There’s also one paragraph that is literally a description of every single store seen as Spenser drives along a commercial ‘canyon,’ and it’s actually kind of fun. I mean, had I been reading it in 1980, maybe not so much. But now, sure: “restaurants that look like log cabins, restaurants that look like sailing ships, restaurants that look like Moorish town houses, restaurants that look like car washes, car washes, shopping centers, a fish market, a skimobile ship. an automotive accessory shop…” The paragraph takes up most of a page. No joke. I can’t think why it was relevant. It builds the setting of leaving the city to the Happy Sunda ‘burbs, and it lets Parker sneak in a snide comment about how Squanto might have made a mistake (in allowing the whites to settle).
I mean, that’s really why we read these oldies, right? To sort-of-sink into the mentality of the past? And I kind of dig this glimpse into the past, with
Parker’s Spenser’s asides, except for the part where Spenser notes that the high school guidance counselor, Susan Silverman, has a “thin dark Jewish face.” Um, I don’t even. But onward. She does a lot of shrugging, throws in some “I don’t know’s” in response to his questioning and when they have dinner–and this was wonderful–has a second helping of gravy. It’s truly interesting to see the first appearance of a character who will one day annoy me as she nibbles on a lettuce leaf and makes enigmatic statements.
It’s also quite interesting to have a Spenser that is a bit… slow on the uptake, and who gets/allows himself to be manipulated, and doesn’t intuit the solution. Oh, but then it gets slightly weird again with a homosexual angle. Spenser even hangs out at a local divey gay bar trying to run into a suspect. Is it judgey? Maybe indirectly in the descriptions, but if it is, it’s less so than the implied judgement at the drunken hetro bash thrown by his clients.
I’ll read a few more. I’m curious to remember how Hawk comes into the picture, and when the writing starts to shift to the streamlined version. Maybe he eventually found an editor that said, “we need to take out all the description,” and the 1990s Spenser is what was left. Overall, an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours, although I probably should have been more productive.