Robert B. Parker Dies at Writing Desk
Papers reside at Gotlieb Center
Robert B. Parker wrote without notes, without outlines, without even a story line in his head. He would start each book, he told Bostonia magazine in 2005, with an opening premise, hoping it would lead to chapter two and hoping chapter two would lead to chapter three. Inevitably it did, and over 37 years, it led to 65 books.
Parker (GRS’57,’71), who had donated his papers and drafts to BU’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, died of a heart attack on January 18 while sitting at his writing desk in his Cambridge home. He was 77.
Parker pounded out 37 witty and eloquent adventures of his most popular and well-known character: a private eye named Spenser, who became the central character of the TV series Spenser: For Hire, starring Robert Urich. Another character, Jesse Stone, the protagonist in nine books, was played by Tom Selleck in a series of television movies. And his 2005 western, Appaloosa, was made into a movie starring Ed Harris.
Parker’s association with Boston University ran long and deep. He earned both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in English here. His doctoral thesis, The Violent Hero, Wilderness Heritage, and Urban Reality: A Study of the Private Eye in the Novels of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross Macdonald, is in the collection at Mugar Memorial Library.
“I was desperately trying to get my Ph.D. by the time I turned 40,” Parker told Bostonia in 2007. “I made it, by just about a year. The actual writing of my doctoral dissertation took about two weeks — I know there are people who have been working on their thesis since 1918 who’ll want to shoot me for saying that. But I don’t get better by taking my time. My second draft is not an improvement, so I don’t do one. So in the summer of 1971 I went to the cellar of a BU building, and a woman took my diploma out of a box and handed it to me.”
In 2007, Parker gave his papers and drafts to the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. “They were piling up in my cellar,” Parker explained. “It’s also true that the Gotlieb is rather widely known, so I said yes. The deal was that they could have the material if they’d come and take it away.”
Read more about Robert B. Parker (GRS’57,’71) here.
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