Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Robert B. Parker

Can I go on living my life without saying anything about Robert B. Parker and his sudden death? The guy who's said to have kept the private eye genre alive during the seventies and eighties? (What about James Crumley, Stephen Greenleaf, Marcia Muller, Arthur Lyons, Jonathan Valin, Loren Estleman, Pete Hamill..? They did nothing of the sort?)

I'm one of those who never got into Parker and his Spenser books. Admittedly, I've read only two (Looking for Rachel Wallace and some other, the name of which I can't recall) and both were translations. There just might be something in Parker's style that doesn't come out well in translation. In Finnish it's pretty flat. But what's certain is that Spenser feels like a bore even when translated. It tells something that the two of his books I read are the only Spensers translated in Finnish (his Chandler books got into Finnish, though, but I don't think I've read them). There's just something that doesn't resonate with Finnish readers, me included (and believe you me, there's lots of stuff that resonates with me and leaves many of Finns cold).

Okay, the books are easily read, they run along smoothly, but you never - well, I didn't - get a real sense of anything important happening. Well, okay, some of the classic private eye heroes got too mixed up in their cases, the cases changed them (Lew Archer, Mike Hammer, many of the later ones), but Spenser might be more realistic in that he just does his job, and that's that. Yet his macho attitude feels forced and artificial. I hate when someone makes gourmet meals in books and yaps about it (or pretends not to yap about it, but yaps about it inside, like machos do). It's boring. Parker was one of the reasons I have said that private eyes are no longer interesting - even though it's a genre I very dearly love.

The lack of Finnish translations may be due to the fact the Robert Urich TV series got here under a very bad title: Tough Game in Boston / Kovaa peliä Bostonissa. Even the first novel was translated under that title, with Urich in the cover. No wonder not many took him seriously. I'm sure the sales of the book were poor. I didn't much watch the show and can't remember anything about it. (I watched one of the Jesse Stone movies with Tom Selleck and I thought it was very poor indeed. It was the one with the happy couple suddenly deciding they'll kill some people.)

I do have quite a bunch of Spensers waiting for me in English, so I'll let you really know what I think of him. And oh, I checked: the other Spenser I read is called Ceremony. It was much more annoying than Looking for Rachel Wallace. (Checking the name of the other book I noticed that the other, older Robert Parker, the one reprinted by Hard Case Crime, has had one book published in Finland: Passport to Peril came out in Swedish from a Finnish-Swedish publisher Schildts as På död mans pass in 1952. Man ska göra nånting att hitta det.)


Anders E said...

No objections from me. I have read around half a dozen of the early Spensers and while a few of them are quite decent, I've never bothered to look for more of them.

GOD BLESS THE CHILD is probably the best of the lot, with THE GODWULF MANUSCRIPT and MORTAL STAKES as runner-ups. I absolutely hated EARLY AUTUMN. While I was reading it my impression was of an awful mix of CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS and WALDEN POND - if such a thing can be imagined.

Regarding DÖD MANS PASS, it was published with that very title in Sweden too and I bet the same translation was used in both cases. Greta Åkerhielm, right?

Juri said...

You're right about Greta.

Can you explain what lies behind the critical and commercial success of Spenser? I can't.