Spenser's Shorts

AKA "Cheap jokes R' Us"

Latest update 11 March 2004

I originally made the case that Surrogate was the only real Spenser short story that I was aware of and considered the other material simply fluff.  Pretty narrow minded as I look back on it now so I've taken a hint from George Orwell and the page with that opinion doesn't exist.  Never did.  This page has always been as you see it now :)

Surrogate is still the only Spenser short story I respect as such.  It was written as a stand-alone piece of fiction involving the elements of plot/conflict/resolution/change in or a revelation about the characters involved.  Brenda Loring has been brutally raped and turns to Spenser in her plea for justice.

The details about the circumstances under which it was written and how to get a copy take up too much space to include here so I'm keeping them on a separate page.  See Surrogate  

Spenser's a Fan, Too

I like to call this adventure "The Case of the Curious Copyright."  Legend has long had it that Parker wrote a short about Spenser and Susan at a Red Sox game but the details were a bit fuzzy.  Kevin Coupe wrote in to note: 

"If I'm not mistaken, Parker wrote a short story about Spenser that appeared in a special Boston Globe section on baseball...it featured major Boston writers and pieces about the Red Sox."

In fact, Kevin did a massive search through his files and came up with the issue in question, which he kindly photocopied and sent my way.  Dated October 6, 1986 and titled "Literati on the Red Sox," it had pieces by eleven local writers, including George F. Will, John Updike, and Stephen King.  Parker's story is subtitled Susan sees a Yankee game.  It's Spenser and Susan taking in a ball game at Fenway Park and talking about rules and life.  Read ch. 5 of Early Autumn and ch. 6 of Mortal Stakes and you've got the whole thing covered.

And unless you stored away a copy as Kevin did forget about ever seeing it.  It's not in the Globe online archives and although they might dig it up for you at 135 Morrissey Blvd. I rather doubt it.  


Now we come to Lord John 10.  [1988, edited by Dennis Etchison] Lord John's Press is a small printer specializing in high quality limited editions.  On their tenth anniversary in 1988 they put out a volume of short stories by authors whose books they had published .  Parker contributed a four page number called Spenser's a Fan, Too.  The mystery is that it lists a copyright date of 1988.  Did they even know Parker was sending them a used story?  

The book is long out of print but you can sometimes find it on the used book market.  I lucked out on a $12 copy at Amazon.com but be warned; as of this writing the least expensive is $25 and it goes up to $450 for a signed first edition. 

An excerpt that sums it up:

"I drank some more beer, sampled a Fenway Frank, explained the infield fly rule to Susan, explained it again, joined in a salute to the Marshfield Little League that flashed on the scoreboard.

'I still think it's a dumb rule.' Susan said.  She shelled a peanut and ate half a nut.

'In a sense all rules are dumb.' I said.  'They're arbitrary.  It's what creates sport.  It's not just trying to win.  It's trying to win under these circumstances, within these rules, under these conditions.'

Susan looked at me while she ate the other half of one peanut.  'Reminds me of someone.' she said.

I shrugged.  'It's a way to live,' I said.

She started on her second peanut.  

"Except here the rules are absolute.' Susan said.

'What makes it a game,' I said."

Spenser's Boston.  [1988] A photographer's impression of Spenser's home area by Kasho Kumagai.  Parker includes a few pages of Spenser and Susan showing Rachel Wallace some local sites of interest.  

Long out of print and hard to find.  I got a copy from my local library network and you may want to try the same yourself.  I also looked through a copy of the Japanese edition in Spenser's Mystery Bookshop on Newbury St. in Boston that the owners keep in their private collection.

Boston: History in the Making.  [1999] An oversized  "coffee table" book, it contains photographs of the local area and puff pieces on local companies. It's part of an "Urban Tapestry Series" put out by Towery Publishing.  To quote:

"As they follow their suspect, Spenser and Hawk deliver a guided tour of the city, from the shops and restaurants of Beacon Hill to the swan boats at the Public Garden to the Italian enclave in the North End. Spenser figures the duo is about 'as inconspicuous . . . as two tarantulas on a wedding cake,' but they manage to solve their case and, in the process, introduce us to Boston as only they could. Accompanying Parker's introduction are hundreds of outstanding images culled from the collections of the area's finest photographers."

Actually you don't need to buy the book unless you want to spend a ton of money for some pretty pictures.  You can read the story online at the publisher's web site:     http://www.urbantapestry.com/boston   

The Kitchen Caper appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine on 16 March 2003.  Read it at http://www.boston.com/globe/magazine/2003/0316/parker.htm and compare it to Susan's attempt at beet risotto in chapter 52 of Small Vices.

Murder's Row. [2001]  An anthology of baseball stories to which Parker contributed "Harlem Nocturne."  Set in 1945 it involves a private detective hired by Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to protect his newest player Jackie Robinson from those who are outraged at the concept of a "negro" in the major leagues. 

Parker has expanded the story to novel length and Double Play is due out on 24 May 2004. 

There's No Business.  Parker wrote this very short piece for the Audiobooks web site.  It seems that Susan's friend "Bob" has written a detective story and thinks it would be wonderful to have a real detective voice the audio version. www.audiobookstoday.com/FtrDtl.cfm?FtrCod=242