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The Godwulf Manuscript (Spencer, No. 1) by Parker, Robert B. (1992) Mass Market Paperback Paperback
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The protagonist Spenser is a more or less modern version of the classic hard bitten Noir type private detective. He is described as slightly over six feet tall and 195 pounds, able to bench press 250 pounds ten times. (That represents fairly serious lifting ability.). He has some experience boxing. At the same time he is seemingly fairly well read. He also feels free to make some fairly snotty comments whenever the mood strikes him. In many ways this is a good, if typical private detective novel.
Speaking for myself, what I found most interesting about this novel is how it compares and contrasts to another first private detective novel, "Indemnity Only" by Sara Paretsky. I just happened to read these two first novels, back to back. That was more or less a complete coincidence. When I say more or less a coincidence, I mean that I am surveying various authors' first novels, including first private detective novels. As Robert Parker's novel was published earlier than Sara Paretsky's, I read Mister Parker's first. Sara Paretsky's very enjoyable first novel was published in1982.
I intend to be vague, but I intend to touch upon these two stories and one may wish to read either or both of them without reading the following paragraph...
Both of these first novels are set in large cities, Boston and Chicago. Both protagonists are somewhat hard bitten private detectives, one male and one female. Both detectives tend to be smart alecs. Both stories involve universities. Both stories include incidents wherein the detectives discuss with others, including professors, the proper use of "who" versus "whom". Both stories involve the detectives driving out of their respective cities to nearby affluent suburbs and then meeting antagonistic wealthy people. Both stories include these detectives making illegal entries into apartments and discovering similar criminal activity that I will not further describe. Both of these illegal entries are seemingly excused by the police. As a retired 39 year police officer and 31 year police detective, all of that business about private detectives taking it upon themselves to illegally break and enter lies outside of my personal experience... That absolutely includes any legal immunity... From my personal experience, all of that falls under the realm of true and complete fiction.
As a student of literature, I am uncredentialed. I have never heard anyone discuss these above two first novels as they compare to each other. As Mister Parker's was published approximately nine years prior to Sara Paretsky's, it would seem unlikely that her storyline inspired Mister Parker. Needless to say these two very good novels may just have some interesting coincidences. As of yet, despite trying, I have yet to discover that Sara Paretsky was inspired by Robert Parker.
In summary, I enjoyed this novel and reading / study experience very much,. Should one be a fan of the modern Noir type private detective, one might enjoy reading first "The Godwulf Manuscript", followed by "Indemnity Only". I liked them both. Thank You...
Regardless of being brand new to Spenser or a returning veteran, all visits to the penultimate Boston gumshoe should begin with this novel. Meeting Spenser chronologically will serve to heighten enjoyment from not only the written series, but also provide deeper understanding of the incredible television series "Spenser, For Hire".
Before his passing, Robert B. Parker was a prolific writer, gracing us with 40 Spenser novels amongst his other works. Every few years, I love to revisit the series, and I always re-read all in order. Not many multi-book series inspire such dedication. Parker's Spenser is one such series that does.
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Not sure how it's taken me this long to discover him, and I'm now hooked on his work.
This is a classic from way back in the late-70s/1980. Set before the days of the internet and cell phones, it's from a time when gathering information for a gumshoe like Spenser means a day at the library looking through piles of microfiche records rather than searching Google or online databases.
Parker's style is a combination of first-person-detective-novel-narrative (like Raymond Chandler) and well-written literary fiction... but without the pretensions. Spenser can slug it out with the best of them, be a wise guy to everyone in authority with his cynical humour, but then throw in an appropriate quote from Chaucer, Shakespeare or Keats so that people realise he's nobody's fool.
Parker's prose is tight, sparse and direct, yet he conveys mood brilliantly.
Among Spenser's talents are his keen eye for clothes and a special appreciation of good food and drink.
So he dresses for the occasion, he cooks well, he punches and shoots people like nobody else... and he's deeply in love with the woman of his dreams, Susan Silverman, a highly intelligent and beautiful psychotherapist. A one-woman man, despite the temptations and offers he seems to get!
I won't spoil the plot of this book, though, as it's less relevant than the quality of the writing.
(NB - I'm buying these old paperback editions secondhand as they're around half the price, delivered, of the electronic version and so I have something physical to keep and sell or pass on, as I choose.)
Spenser's background is not as defined as in the later books but obviously certain aspects and characteristics developed over time. However, he is still tough, belligerent, loyal, determined and as dedicated as you come to expect.
The book unfolds at a nice pace, has interesting characters and a good plot.
To be honest, if this had been the first one I had read, I most probably wouldn't have read any more. Luckily i discovered him quite by accident with one of the later novels.
This isn't one of Parker's best. I don't like this Spenser. His wisecracks are contrived and misplaced. Frankly, he deserves a slap. This Spenser will sleep with whoever offers herself. Parker introduces Susan Silverman in, I believe, the third novel, and Spenser starts to take shape, and the relationship moulds him. My advice to new readers would be to read the novels in order and have patience. They get so much better, and the dialogue between Spenser and his pal Hawk in the later novels is a joy.