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Posted: June 21, 2020

Parker’s huge strengths stand out in Promised Land

Book Review

By Derryll White

Parker, Robert B. (1976).  Promised Land.

I have been looking for the Promised Land for a long time. Not that I am a pilgrim or lusting after travel to the Far East. No, I just am curious as to how Robert B. Parker started his huge network of Spenser novels.  ‘Promised Land’ is fourth in the Spenser series written by Parker. Finding it for .50¢ was a joy.

Hawk, Spenser’s taciturn black partner, subdued, silent, incredibly strong and usually dressed all in black, is different here.  In a powder blue leisure suit unbuttoned to the waist, he is garrulous, cheeky and ostentatious.  Interesting!

It is very clear in ‘Promised Land’ what has made Robert B. Parker an interesting and successful novelist.  He asks the big questions: who am I?  what am I here for? what is love?  And he asks them without apologizing.  Spenser is on a quest, proving his value through selfless acts.  And Suisan Silverman, even this early in the series, is his alter ego, his yang to her yin.  They really talk to each other.  Parker is as good as anyone, better than most, at dialogue.  His characters speak and the exchange is often witty, but always to a point.  It is not meaningless talk.

Parker has two other huge strengths, that stand out even this early in his work.  He is very good at detailed description, at building word pictures that arc across the reader’s consciousness and transport to another place, another situation.  Brilliant really, when one is reading such pieces.

Second, Parker is exceptional at capturing the essence of femininity. My late wife Shirley used to say of him, “No man, no matter what his situation, should be able to expose women so sensitively, so delicately.  He is a dangerous man and I love his work.” I also believe this to be true. I only wish I had as much insight into how the beautiful other half of our world works.

All-in-all, as you have probably intuited, I appreciate Robert B. Parker’s work, and ‘Promised Land’ is no exception. I do, however, encourage readers to discriminate between Robert B. Parker’s original work and the work licensed under his name by his estate. This work is executed by other writers and readers should insist that it stand on its own, not as part of the body of Parker’s original work.

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Excerpts from the novel:

THE ‘70s – For the first time the number of runaway wives exceeds the number of runaway husbands.  They read two issues of Ms. Magazine, see Marlo Thomas on a talk show an decide they can’t go on.  So they take off.  Then they find out that they have no marketable skills.

LOVE – “Loves me, what the hell has that got to do with anything.  He probably does love me.  I never doubted that he did.  So what.  Does that mean I have to love him?  His way?  By his definition?

Rose Alexander said, “It’s an argument men have use since the Middle Ages to keep women in subjugation.”

SEX – “Come to think about it, I didn’t feel all that good the last few times I made it with Harvey.”

“Was that recently?”

She looked away from me.  “Two years ago.”

“That embarrass you?”

She looked back.  “Yes,” she said.  “Very much.  Don’t you think it should?”

“Yeah, maybe.  On the other hand your not a sex vendomatic.  He drops in two quarters and you come across.  I guess you didn’t want to sleep with him.”

– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.


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