Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Finest Kind

This is why you do the work. You do it to the best of your ability. You do it every day. And that's how you hit a career average that puts other writers to shame.

Robert B. Parker keeled over at his desk in Cambridge, Massachusetts yesterday. He was 77 years old. He was working. When he checked out, he'd written more than 75 published books, with more on the way.

Whatever you might have thought of his output, Parker was a giant of a writer. I myself have been reading his books since I was ten years old. The man wrote three books a year near the end and you could tell he wrote them, unlike a lot of other bestseller-fodder novelists I could name who just turned over their name to a paper mill. His books were almost always "For Joan," which is a lesson for everybody.

I've long thought of compiling a book of interviews with crime writers, both the legends and the new kids coming out swinging, precisely because we ought to capture their stories for this very reason: nobody is around forever. Bob was on a very short wish list of mine for a real interview, largely interrupted for personal reasons, when we were living less than a hour away from each other in Massachusetts. I'll always be sorry we didn't get the chance to talk, but I'll always be glad I could walk into any airport bookstore and breathe easy knowing his books were waiting for me.

As usual, the great and wise Sarah Weinman has better words than I, as well as a comprehensive list of the tribute pouring in.

I believe in good guys and I believe in bad guys. Unlike most people, I'm just not sure which is which. Guys like Parker? They were pretty sure about who was wearing the white hat.

Thanks, Bob.

Oh, speaking of the new kids on the block, the Edgars were announced today. Congratulations to everybody involved, but especially our comrades Charlie Huston, Dennis Lehane and Megan Abbott. You folks keep killing people and I'll keep writing about you.

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