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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

From Bob Sassone; Lee Goldberg

Bob Sassone said...

I haven't read the last 5 or 6 Spenser books. I was a huge fan but realized there are too many other writers that I enjoy more recently. Jeremiah Healy, Will Christopher Baer, Robert Crais, catching up on some Ross MacDonald's I never got around to reading.

I was also put off by Parker's comments when Robert Urich passed away. I talk about them here, if anyone is interested:

The hell with Robert Parker.

No, not the wine guy, the author of the "Spenser" books. Robert Urich passes away, and the quote he musters is this:

"This is a shock. It's too soon, and he was too young...He wasn't the perfect Spenser...Bob was not a great actor, but he was big and physical, and he looked good and he showed up to the set knowing his lines. A lot of people liked him in the role, but I can't even say in honor of his memory that he was quite right for the role. But then, who is?"

This is offensive on so many levels. It starts out well, but then turns into some mish-mash of misguided integrity ("hey, I gotta call em like I sees them!") and a backhanded compliment (or not).

"He wasn't the perfect Spenser..."

He wasn't? Sorry, whenever I read the Spenser novels (that's read as in rhyming with "red," past tense), all I could picture is Urich as the character. He was perfect. A perfect TV star in the perfect TV role (as was Avery Brook's portrayal of Hawk). That show lasted three seasons because of Urich. I remember hearing something about how Parker didn't want the the TV series to use first-person voiceovers. Funny, those voiceovers were some of the best things about the show. They gave it an elegance and mood that most shows, especially detective series, never capture. Books and TV shows are very different things. You shouldn't worry about how the book is being portrayed; the books live on. But Parker never seems to be happy with how his creation is dealt with. Except now, of course. He has Joe Matagna in those second-rate A and E Spenser flicks that think Toronto passes for Boston. I hope he's happy with them.

"Bob was not a great actor..."

Let's kick the man when he's down (way down). Actually, I say that Urich was a fine actor. He probably would never have gone onto win an Academy Award, but so what? This guy starred in 15 TV series as a leading man, and a few as an ensemble player, over a 30 year career, so producers and casting agents and TV fans certainly found something that they liked about him, again and again and again, even if some of those shows didn't last long. You don't have to remember that Emeril was his last TV show. That show was horrible because of the writing and the concept, not Urich. Remember Spenser and Lonesome Dove and the cheesy but fun Vegas and his flair for comedy and how he worked hard and was a good guy.

"...and he looked good and he showed up to the set knowing his lines."


"A lot of people liked him in the role, but I can't even say in honor of his memory that he was quite right for the role. But then, who is?"

Maybe this guy shouldn't do interviews. A beloved human being is dead too young, and he thinks that NOW is the time for literary and acting opinions? Notice also that he gets in a little plug for his books. "The character of Spenser, as I have written it, is my too complex to be portrayed by a mere TV actor," he seems to be saying. Egads.

Perhaps this is how we'll remember Parker:

"He wasn't the perfect author...he wasn't a great writer, but he had fingers and owned a typewriter and he knew how to type. A lot of people liked his books, but I can't even say in honor of his memory that he was quite up to writing the "Spenser" books. But then, who is?"

Lee Goldberg said...

I remember that quote, Bob. It pissed me off then and it still rankles reading it again. What a profounding stupid thing for Parker to have said.

Then again, I'm biased. I worked on SPENSER FOR HIRE. Robert Urich was one of the nicest men I've ever met.


Blogger Gerald So said...

From what I've seen and heard of him, Parker is often insensitive. I suspect somewhere along the line he began to believe his level of success gave him the right to say whatever he wanted. And he does seem to be one of the more quoted authors.

But much of what Parker says has the ring of shallow macho bluster that seems to have originated in the Spenser books, seeped into Parker's professed outlook, and bled--in more sappy form--back into the books.

I've always been a fan of Parker's books, but I've tired of the man himself.

I didn't think Urich was the perfect Spenser precisely because--as Lee mentioned--he seemed the nicest guy. Spenser, on the other hand, has more rough edges. If anything, I'd say Urich's likeability rubbed off on Spenser, creating the character seen on "Spenser: For Hire". To a lot of people, this was Spenser; no use in Parker denying it. His comment does seem incredibly stupid.

January 25, 2005 at 12:46 PM  

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