We’d Be Fools Not To

I’m a big Robert B. Parker fan. That said, BLUE SCREEN is probably one of his worst books. For one thing, it’s a Sunny Randall novel, his weakest series and a bland imitation of Spenser. And like most Sunny Randall novels, it’s a meandering, uninvolving story that feels as if he was making it up as he went along (at least he only used the phrase "we’d be fools not to"  once in this book and not as the end of a chapter for a change).  Parker has his PI working for a self-involved celebrity (something he’s done several times with Spenser and once before with Sunny), which only adds to the "been there/done that" feeling that pervades this listless book.

But what ultimately makes BLUE SCREEN more than just a disappointing book in a so-so series is that Jesse Stone, the hero of his third ongoing series, is teamed up with Sunny in this story and neutered in the process. Which is a tragedy, because the Jesse Stone books have been (with the exception of SEA CHANGE) Parker at his very best, harkening back to his early Spenser novels.  They’ve also provided the basis for a trio of terrific Tom Selleck TV movies.

The Jesse Stone character in BLUE SCREEN is  cringe-inducing. Then again, just about everything in this book is cringe-inducing, from the cutesy banter to the endless attention given to Sunny’s dog (I won’t even go into the cameo appearance by Susan Silverman).  Unfortunately for us Jesse Stone fans,  the book seems aimed at merging the two series into one, something I hope Parker will reconsider.  We’d be fools not to.

6 thoughts on “We’d Be Fools Not To”

  1. Like you, I’m a fan of his earlier work, but his previous book, the Jackie Robinson bodyguard yarn was not just a lame story but horribly written. Is he just getting old? Or were his earlier books not as good as we thought they were?

  2. I agree that somehow it seems like he lost interest. He said in an interview he doesn’t plan the books in advance, he just does five pages a day (it may be ten now) and follows them wherever they lead, but it sure seems lazy these days – I cannot even get into the new Spenser books –
    The earlier ones, like A CATSKILL EAGLE, had an edge and humor to them along with a sense of the tragic. They blistered you when you read them (Valediction) and even made you laugh out loud sometimes.
    Now it feels too much like like a paint by numbers set. So sad, he was my favorite writer at some point.

  3. Oh great. It’s on my shelf. I had hopes–the guy’s got a good or great body of work–but I agree, his last one, Sea Change, sucked. I was fairly annoyed with it. Well, I’m not reviewing it, just reading it, so I get to keep an open mind.
    I’m reading Jack Kerley’s “The Death Collectors.” Man, this guy can write.
    I’m also reading “Break No Bones” by Kathy Reich, and not for the first time, I’ve thought, “Waaaayyyy toooooo many coincidences.”

  4. I completely disagree with these statements. Robert Parker is still a very good writer, and I thought DOUBLE PLAY was a great book. I haven’t read the most recent Jesse Stone novel, but the previous ones were first-rate, especially STONE COLD. If you took Parker’s name of the Jesse Stone books, and put a new writer’s name on them, we would all be gushing about him.
    I think Parker still challenges himself — he writes Westerns, has created two new series, and has written a YA novel. I don’t defend all his books, but I can’t think of too many other writers of his generation who have lasted as long as he has.

  5. I still eagerly await the day when Spenser comes home to find Hawk standing over Susan’s dead body. “Sorry, babe,” Hawk will says, “that bitch has been annoying me since The Godwulf Manuscript and Searching For Rachel Wallace. Now, I gotta hop over to another series and kill a fucking dog, babe.”

  6. Richard,
    I really liked STONE COLD, too. I’ve enjoyed all the Jesse Stone books, though SEA CHANGE was by far the weakest and least satisfying entry in the series. I also liked GUNMAN’S RHAPSODY and am looking forward to reading APPALOOSA.
    I consider myself a Parker fan…but contrary to you, I believe if BLUE SCREEN had another author’s name on it, the critics would be savaging it (if they even bothered to review it at all).


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