Robert Brown Parker was born on September 17, 1932 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He graduated from Colby College in Waterville, Maine with a BA in English, and went on to serve for two years as an infantry soldier in Korea. In 1956, he married the love of his life, Joan, who he had first met when they were children. 1957 saw the completion of his MA in English from Boston University. He worked as a technical writer and advertising executive, then returned to teaching and academia. At Joan's urging, he earned his Ph.D. in literature from Boston University and secured a professorship at Boston's Northeastern University in 1971 so he would have more time to write.

Parker unleashed his wise-cracking and literate private investigator Spenser on the world with the 1973 publication of The Godwulf Manuscript. Spenser is the modern evolution of the hard-boiled detective hero, a subject Parker is very familiar with; his doctoral dissertation tracked this evolution to the heros in novels by Dashiell Hammett, Ross MacDonald, and Raymond Chandler. Spenser's wild popularity has lead to nearly 30 novels, the mid-80s television series Spenser: For Hire starring Robert Urich as Spenser, which ran from 1985-1988, and several made-for-tv movies. In the more recent ones, from A&E, Joe Mantegna replaces Urich as the hero. In 1978, Parker left the university to write full time (saying that although he only taught on Wednesdays, "Yes, but it's EVERY Wednesday!") and hasn't looked back since.

In many ways, when Parker writes his Spenser novels, he's writing about himself. He is as literate as his fictional hero, and has the same sense of humor. Both his belief system and events in his personal life come through in the writing. Spenser's lover, Susan Silverman, is based on his wife Joan, and their separation and near divorce is reflected in Spenser's relationship problems in The Widening Gyre, Valediction, and A Catskill Eagle. Joan wound up having an affair, and Robert was depressed to the point of being suicidal.

The Parkers rebuilt their marriage in time in an unconventional way that suited them perfectly. Like Spenser and Susan, they live separately, initially in separate towns, then in separate condominiums in the same city. In 1986, they bought their dream house together in Cambridge, where they maintain totally separate living quarters. This allows them to indulge their completely incompatible lifestyles (Joan loves to socialize, while Robert remains a loner) and schedules (Joan can entertain late into the night, Robert tends to be in bed by 10), while still maintaining a close and loving relationship. As Robert puts it, "On the big issues, Joan and I are amazingly in tune, but on the creature-comfort level, we're incompatible."

Parker has broken out of the Spenser series on several occasions. In 1989, he completed Raymond Chandler's last unfinished Philip Marlowe manuscript, Poodle Springs, at the request of the Chandler estate. The following year he delivered Perchance to Dream, a sequel to Chandler's The Big Sleep. He's recently started two new detective series, one with Jesse Stone as a California homicide detective coming to start over as a small-town police chief in Massachusetts, the other with Sunny Randall, a female detective in Boston written with an eye toward a potential moviel deal with Helen Hunt. His non-genre works vary widely, from the Deliverance-style story Wilderness to the Western Gunman's Rhapsody.

He prefers not to write Spenser short stories, but was once talked into it by Playboy. They wanted a one, but when he did deliver, they rejected it. The story, "Surrogate," was published in the May 1984 issue of Gallery, then later as a Lord John's Press limited special edition and wound up included (unknown to Parker himself until he was asked to sign a copy) in the short story collection New Crimes 3, published in Britain. Incidentally, this marks the only rejection the author has ever received, even when he submitted his first novel with a simple cover letter reading: "Would you care to publish this? Sincerely, Robert B. Parker."

On more than one occasion, Parker has stated that he fully intends to keep writing until he dies. He manages a steady 5 pages per day, every day, and intends to produce two novels a year, at least for a while. One will be a Spenser novel, and the other most likely either Jesse Stone or Sunny Randall. He always has other project ideas queued up as well, such as a novel about Jackie Robinson. Gunman's Rhapsody grew out of a similar project idea.

In 2000, Robert B. Parker was awarded the Sarah Josepha Hale Award for maintaining a connection to New England with his life's work. In 2002, he was honored with the Edgar Allan Poe Grand Master Award by the Mystery Writers of America.


Spenser mysteries

Raymond Chandler

Jesse Stone mysteries

Sunny Randall mysteries

Other Novels


  • "Surrogate" (Gallery, May 1984)
  • Spenser's Boston (1988 Japan, 1994 US) - Parker included some filler material where Spenser and Susan show Rachel Wallace some sights in Boston.
  • Boston: History in the Making (1999) - More filler, with Spenser and Hawk giving a tour of the city while trailing a suspect.
  • "Harlem Nocturne" (2001) - a short story involving Jackie Robinson witten for the sports mystery anthology Murderer's Row


Bullets and Beer -
The Spensarium -
No Exit Press -
Rosetta Books -
Bookreporter -

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