Robert B. Parker FAQ

Last Updated 26 March 2003 by Bob Ames

What is Spenser's first name?

Not only do we not know, we will never know.  While writing "The Godwulf Manuscript" way back in the seventies Parker decided to name the character after his son David and actually typed the manuscript that way. The problem was he had two sons, the other being Daniel, and he didn't want him to feel left out. Parker went back and deleted all references to a first name and so a legend was born.

By now it has become a trademark, or an inside joke. I have read numerous interviews in 
which Dr. Parker has vowed never to reveal Spenser's first name. He's teased a couple of times about it; here's one from Stardust:

"'Do you have a first name Mr. Spenser?' Jill said...I told her my first name."

BTW:  Marcylwhite turned up this interesting piece of trivia

"In watching an episode of 'Spenser: for Hire' he once signed an invoice and dotted twice. Possibly William?"

Wait a minute, it's right there!

Sorry, but the three examples I've been sent are cultural references.

The Godwulf Manuscript ch. 9: "C'mon Jim, we got to walk you off

The black campus policeman was most likely working from a
description, not a name. It seems to be how he would refer to any
unknown white male. Shall we call him "Mr. Crow?"

The Judas Goat ch. 4: "Be careful Matt."

Susan says "I'm going to do one excerpt from my famous Miss Kitty impression...Be careful, Matt."  Spenser replies "A man's gotta do what he's gotta do, Kitty."

James Arness and Amanda Blake played Marshall Matt Dillon and his girlfriend
Kitty Russell ("Miss Kitty" being the proper address for an unmarried lady a
century ago) in "Gunsmoke," a classic western that aired from 1955 to 1975.

Robert McKay added the following information:

"In the south, it's a form of familiar respect you can use whether 
the woman in question is married or single. I once worked with a 
 married Miss Dorothy, and Miss Maryetta at church is also married."

Ceremony ch. 20: "Speak for yourself John."  Hisao Tomihari writes: 

"It originated in the poem The Courtship of Miles Standish written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 'Why don't you speak for yourself, John?' appears in Part III, The Lover's Errand. Priscilla Mullins Alden allegedly said this. She was one of the women who went over to America on the Mayflower. She got married to 'John' Alden, who had carried to her the marriage proposal of Captain Miles Standish of Plymouth."

Quite correct. It's much too long for my poetry page but you can read the whole thing here

 BTW: the esteemed contributor ended his letter by asking "Is this too obvious?" Well, yes and no. I overlooked it because every schoolchild in my day was quite familiar with the passage, and from the above it also seems to be well known in Japan. I should have remembered a second hand copy of the book in my collection where a previous owner had circled the name "John" in red, thinking that they'd tracked down the elusive information. 

How about Hawk?

An interesting question.  He obviously has a drivers license, passport, car registration, 
insurance, and other pieces of paper with some sort of first and last name on them. 
I doubt they are the ones he was born with, given as he lives on the other side of the law. 
"Hawk" is probably a nickname he chose for himself when he began his career as a 
boxer and wanted the audience to associate him with a swift, deadly bird of prey.
I doubt if we will ever be given anything else to identify him.

I really loved the TV show Spenser: for Hire.  Can I get copies on videotape or DVD?

I have spent considerable time and effort over the years searching every source that sells videotapes of television shows.  It seems as if every pathetic, hackneyed, second rate show ever made HAS been released but this one never was.  I even stop in at the major auction sites once a week just in case, but the very few time someone offera homemade copies captured off the air they are bid up to astronomical levels.

Update:  See my Release Spenser Now page for who to write to about the situation.

The movies are a little bit easier.  The Lifetime network made four movies:  CeremonyPale Kings and Princes, The Judas Goat, and A Savage Place.  The last three often show up on E-bay but for some reason Ceremony is very hard to find.
A&E made three movies starring Joe Mantegna: Small Vices, Thin Air, and Walking Shadow.  The last two are available on their web site

I'd like to tell Parker how much I like his books.  Got an address?

Although Dr. Parker does have an e-mail address he values his privacy and it is known to very few people; I am not one of them.  The only way I know of to contact him is through his publisher:

Robert B. Parker
c/o G. P. Putnam's Sons Publicity
375 Hudson Street
New York NY 10014

I have no idea if the letters are sent to him or if he uses an answering service; write to him and let me know what happens.

That's not what RBP said a few novels ago. What gives?

One of my other favorite authors, Lois McMaster Bujold, was once asked about some details that didn't quite agree with events in an earlier novel. She stated that as an author she reserved the right to come up with a better idea. I would extend the same courtesy to Dr. Parker. As an example, if having Spenser delivered by Caesarian section after his mother died in an accident and being raised in an all male household better explains his outlook on life I won't quibble with earlier references that suggest otherwise. Of course, I will take note of them, but I'm not troubled by them.