Now and Then

NOW AND THEN isn’t the worst book Robert B. Parker has ever written (that award would go to the latest Sunny Randall novel), but it may be the laziest.  It’s definitely one of the weakest Spenser novels. Susan’s Harvard education was mentioned six times before I stopped keeping track. At one point, there’s a big shootout at Susan’s house involving Uzis and shotguns and not  a single neighbor calls the cops. Sadly, Susan survives.

I’m a Robert B. Parker fan, but he hasn’t written a good book since APPALOOSA. I hope the upcoming sequel is as good because this is one fan who is loosing his faith.

11 thoughts on “Now and Then”

  1. I know the feeling, Lee. I moderate a Parker discussion list, and in the welcome message I describe myself as follows:
    “I’m Gerald So. I started reading the Spenser books as an English major in 1993, and have had a love-hate relationship with Parker’s work ever since.”

  2. Well, I thought Now & Then was a dramatic improvement over the last 2 or 3. (The last Sunny Randall sucked dead bears, though. It’s got to be the worst thing he’s ever published). So, although it was readable and I guess I enjoyed it (or at least, it passed the time and I didn’t fling the book across the room), I thought it was pretty weak. And, as I’ve noticed about a lot of his books lately, there are an awful lot of holes and improbabilities in the plot. The rest of us pretty much have to work hard to get PIs involved in murders and tangled up with the FBI and CIA. Parker doesn’t seem to want to bother justifying why anybody puts up with Spenser’s presence in their lives.

  3. Bummer. I’m halfway through this book right now–so you’re saying it doesn’t get any better?
    And is anyone else getting tired of the let’s=make-an-ethnic-joke-to-show-how=liberal-we-are stuff? Chollo shows up and makes a self-mocking Latino joke. Epstein shows up and they go to a Jewish deli. And of course Hawk is always talking in blaxsploitation slang and then switching to a British accent.
    Don’t get me started on Parker’s female characters . . .

  4. I’m glad I’m not the only one who laughed at, “Sadly, Susan survives.”
    I’m a Parker fan who has yet to venture outside the Spenser and Jesse Stone books. Although Double Play and Gunman’s Rhapsody are in by “to be read” pile. I think based on your reference I will add Appaloosa to my list as well.

  5. Though I haven’t read Now and Then, I do agree that Robert Parker’s books have been on a downward spiral. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a long time Parker fan, but it seems as of late, his books don’t seem to have that certain something that his earlier books did.

  6. The book has me ambivilant, too, Lee. “Potshot” was one of my favorites. I tried to ask myself where “Now & Then” started drifting on me. In Act One, chapters 1 to 15, I had no problem, and in fact I enjoyed it a lot. Seemed to have a lot of good energy. But Act Two, chapters 16 to 25 needs to be re-thought, I would argue. This the Act where the hero should be taking action, but instead he discusses the same set of facts 8 chapters out of 10. With Doherty (chapt 16), Susan (17), Epstein (19), Hawk and Vinnie (20), Belson (21), Hawk (22), Epstein (23) and Susan (24). There is almost no progression in these chapters so that the pacing is so non-existent, it just sort of becomes tedious. In 18, Vinnie reports on the shooting of Jourdan, while in 25, Spenser confronts Alderson, so things happen, but not in the other Act Two chapters.
    If I could theorize for a moment: it seems to me that Mr. Parker has got Act Two and Act Four (chapts. 41 to 50) reversed. I find this often happens, also, in individual chapters. In Act Two, the hero should be taking action. In Act Four, the minor characters are taking action. But Spenser takes no action in Act Two in “Now & Then” but does do his investigating in Act Four. Therefore, the stories will leave the ambivilant feeling because the Acts occur out of order, to my way of viewing it. In “Potshot”, however, Mr. Parker really got it. In Act Two, Spenser goes to L.A. and investigates his client’s past. In Act Four, his team is reacting to The Preacher and his men as they push the envelope. Therefore, the story works beautifully as the structure is correct.
    As you say, Lee, I’m still a fan and I look forward to Mr. Parker’s books, and I believe if his Story Model were changed, he would hit a home run almost every time out.
    I sure am rooting for him!

  7. At a San Francisco Bouchercon circa 1984 I tried to ask Parker if he would be so kind as to kill Susan. He never called on me, however, probably because I pointed out a mistake in his latest book regarding ammunition while getting an autograph. For a tough guy, he has thin skin.

  8. I thought this one was okay. But I wasn’t expecting much going into it.
    The nice thing about Parker’s books is that they’re akin to the weather in New England. Even if they’re bad, they don’t last very long.


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