Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chasing the Bear, a Young Spenser Novel

Robert B. Parker’s latest is a slim novel –a novella, actually– focusing on the childhood of his best known creation, tough-yet-sensitive PI Spenser. Spenser’s past in Wyoming growing up with his father and two uncles has been referenced by Parker in earlier novels, but this is the first time the reader has been given the story behind Spenser’s development.

The story is filled with boxing lessons, an encounter with the titular grizzly, Spenser’s first rescue of a fair maiden, the first time Spenser causes a bad guy’s death, a fight with the town bully and instructions on how to have a manly code of honor.

In other words, typical Parker.

The thing is, I love Parker’s writing, and Chasing the Bear, short as it is, stands as a fine addition to the PI’s canon.

One caveat: the incidents in Spenser’s boyhood alternate with contemporary chapters featuring Spenser and his shrink girlfriend Susan discussing said events. The subject of Susan is a touchy one among many Spenser fans.However, I find the relationship between the two to be a warm and comfortable part of the series. And Parker’s dialogue crackles here, as always.

Chasing the Bear will tide fans over until the Fall release of The Professional, the next Spenser novel.

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