Published on: May 5, 2017
One of the great and regular pleasures of spring long has been the publishing of a new Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker. Though we lost Parker in 2010, since then the estimable novelist Ace Atkins has succeeded him, producing new Spenser novels every year and keeping the fan base satisfied.
More than satisfied, actually. One of the things that Atkins has been able to do is expand the series' canvas a bit, finding new ways to approach the Spenser oeuvre while keeping intact the perceptive, sardonic and ultimately soft-hearted voice of the protagonist, who continues to work the mean streets and Back Bay mansions of Boston as a private detective, aided in great measure by his longtime love, Susan Silverman and, of course, Hawk. (I'm never quite sure how to describe Hawk except to say that he may be Parker's singular creation, always more than a sidekick and offering the author an opportunity to comment on the scene with a bit of distance and even more cynicism.)
The new Spenser novel, "Little White Lies," is out this week, and it does not disappoint. The plot is a little thicker than usual, concerning a woman who has been cheated out of a considerable sum of money by a con man, and Spenser's efforts to help her recover the funds - which brings him into conflict with the Boston Police Department, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), black market gun runners, paramilitary contractors, and assorted other bad guys. Needless to say, Spenser does it all with aplomb, and Hawk is on the scene more than usual because he's spent time with these guys and can provide unique insights into their behavior and rationale; the case also allows Spenser/Atkins to comment on some of the blowhards who often appear and pontificate on cable TV, offering expertise without background or resume, and thoroughly pulling the wool over the eyes of viewers.
All of which I loved, and expected. But what I really loved about "Little White Lies," I must confess, are the descriptions of the quiet moments, like when Spenser makes and eats breakfast in his new apartment, alone except for the company of his faithful dog, Pearl. It is simply evocative, and now, in the 46th novel featuring Spenser, those moments seem deserved.
My favorite chapter, I think, is when Spenser and Hawk are on a stakeout. They eat grinders and drink coffee and talk about "baseball, boxing, old movies and jazz." Spenser and Hawk have been doing this a long time, and there is an easy familiarity, and then Hawk observes that "you never really know someone." Spenser disagrees, and then Hawk asks him, "What's my real name?" (This is territory into which the Spenser books never have traveled before.) Spenser, it ends up, does not know ... which adds a certain unexpected dramatic tension to a relationship that Spenser fans have watched unfold over many years and many novels.
I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me that Ace Atkins is getting a little looser in his approach to Spenser - he knows there are touchstones that must be touched, characters who must be referenced, and a history that must be respected. (I was thrilled that Rachel Wallace reappears in "Little White Lies;" it's been too long.) But he's riffing a bit now, and Spenser and the series are the better for it. I heartily recommend "Little White Lies."
If they ever decide to make a new TV series out of the Spenser novels, they would do well to turn the task over to the folks who have adapted Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch novels for Amazon, where the third season has just become available for screening. It is terrific.
Harry Bosch, for the uninitiated, is a Los Angeles police detective with a strong sense of justice and a passion for the underdog. "Everyone counts, or nobody counts," is one of his catchphrases, which leads him into conflict with his superiors and various politicians as he pursues bad guys with single-minded alacrity.
One of the great pleasures of the Bosch novels, as well as the TV adaption and the portrayal by the great Titus Welliver, is that Bosch is no saint - he makes mistakes, and there are moments when the reader/viewer wants to restrain him, but, of course, cannot.
Season three has a number of those moments, as Bosch pursues a series of cases, still haunted by the fact that while he believes he has solved the long-ago murder of his mother, the system failed her. This brings an edge to every conversation, every encounter, and it is almost like watching the long fuse of a bomb that inevitably must go off. The great news is that because "Bosch" has been renewed for at least one more season, the writers and producers have the ability to plant clues and hints about stories yet to come, knowing that they have time to make them pay off. They also have the room to give supporting characters the ability to breathe and evolve, which only helps the drama and drives it forward.
Great stuff, "Bosch." I loved every minute of it.
So I'm at dinner in Seattle last week at Salty's, the well-known seafood restaurant, and we wanted a rose to drink with dinner; I'm not a big rose guy, but it just seemed like the appropriate choice for the halibut we were eating. Being trusting people, we put the choice into the waiter's hands ... we just gave him our price point and let him go to work.
The rose we ended up drinking was excellent, made from pinot noir and perfectly matched to our seafood - it was fruity enough without being sweet, and full of flavor. I have to admit that I was a little bit crestfallen to discover that the 2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir we were drinking was a collaboration between Carmel Rose Vineyards and actress/producer Drew Barrymore, and was, in fact, called Barrymore. Normally I'd be allergic to such a collaboration, but they snuck this one in under the radar, and it was very good, and I may have to buy more. You should do the same.
That's it for this week.
Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.