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Robert B. Parker's 'Spenser' detective series influences Robert Crais

January 20, 2010 | 11:00 am

Robert B. Parker, the bestselling author of the long-running, Boston-set "Spenser" private-eye novels who died Jan. 18 at age 77, was known for being a modern master of the hard-boiled detective genre.

Robert Crais, author of the bestselling Elvis Cole/Joe Pike private detective series set in Los Angeles, said Parker was one of his literary influences.

Crais "I think every writer of detective fiction writing today has been influenced by Mr. Parker," said Crais. "I'm of a generation that followed Robert Parker, and it was impossible to read the genre and not be influenced by him."

Parker "put new life into the private detective novel," said Crais, mentioning Parker's humanity and sense of humor. "The fact that he opened the world [of detective fiction] to a modern sensibility is, I think, his chief contribution.

"For the first time, here's this character, Spenser, and his partner is an African American. In the fabric of their stories, people of other colors were actual characters; they weren't just stereotypes. Here's Spenser, and he's got a meaningful, modern relationship with a woman; and the women characters he deals with in the books are intelligent and of a modern sensibility."

Crais was speaking by phone from Raleigh, N.C., one stop on his coast-to-coast tour for his new Joe Pike novel, "The First Rule."

The complete obituary of Parker is here.

-- Dennis McLellan

Photo (top): Robert B. Parker. Credit: John Earle

Photo (bottom): Robert Crais. Credit: Los Angeles Times