Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A CATSKILL EAGLE by Robert B. Parker

Sunday's quote was from The Widening Gyre. It said, "The soul wears various vestments."

In A Catskill Eagle, Spenser and Parker wear their action hero vestments.  

The book is filled with action.  At one point, Spenser and Hawk jump onto the top of a speeding SUV.  It reminded me of Roy Rogers riding Trigger up to a stagecoach, jumping onto the back of the stagecoach or, even, sometimes jumping on the horses and hanging on the wagon tongue.

Except Spenser is more violent.  This is the book were Spenser gets his killing-violence credentials.

Susan writes Spenser a letter telling him she has asked Hawk to rescue her from the grip of a possessive lover.  

Never mind that Susan went with the man because she wanted to.  And she is not being physically abused.  She is being held against her will by a man she claims to love (in some ways, probably the true hallmark of abuse).

Hawk ends up in jail, charged with murder.  Spenser breaks him out, and the two of them go on a killing spree, breaking into a couple of impregnable places to finally save her.  They take on a rich, violent gunrunner who has his own private army.

At one point in the story, Hawk tells Spenser, "You spent your life in a mean business, babe, trying not to be mean.  And so far you got away with it mostly.  But there's stuff on the line that never been on the line before."

And that's true.  

This is probably the book that brought the Spenser series back to what people such as me wanted it to be--a story in the line of Raymond Chandler or of the Lew Archer stories.  Now the personal part of the story, though playing a huge part, is less than (or at least no more than equal to) the action part.

Of course, not everybody sees things in the same way.  My wife likes watching Susan, whom she sees as "screwed up," struggling with her dysfunction.   She is more into that kind of thing than I am.

So I liked the book, and I suspect she will.  She's a couple books behind me as we work our way through the series.

Again, this is a very literate book.  There are references to the literature Parker spent his life reading and studying.  And, as always, the writing is crisp and clean, a joy to read.

I look forward to reading the next book in the series. 


Evan Lewis said...

Hadn't made the Roy & Trigger connection, but it's apt. I found the emotional element equally as strong as the action. Spenser is going through Crazy Time here, making him take more risks than usual.

Joe Barone said...

He sure loves Susan. There is no doubt about that.

Joe McCusker said...

Just offering a minority report but isn't this the novel where Spenser and Hawk are in need of funds so use some hookers to draw in their pimps to rob. And , in order to protect the hookers from retribution, gun the pimps down in cold blood? If Stark's Parker, for example, did this, fine but this act is committed by a man who will yack on endlessly about his code and what it is to be a "man." Not to mention the bargain Spenser makes to free Susan. Always thought it was one of the more morally repugnant private eye novels ever writen. As I previously stated, minority report. Big fan of the blog, Mr. Barone, even when I disagree!

Joe Barone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Barone said...

You've got the right book. Your comment is helpful. The actions are morally repugnant and I should have said so.

PS. This is my original post (deleted above) with "I should have said so" added. All I have to do is see it in print, and I think of things to add or change.

Anonymous said...

You are obviously a scholar and a gentleman treating my mini-rant with such style. You had no obligation to give your view on the morality of Spenser's actions; as is apparent, though, they bothered me quite a bit. As implied before, I thought they were a spooky twisting of the private eye code as embodied by Marlowe (who, remember only shot one man and in self defense).
Look forward to posting in future, feel free to slap me down once in a while!!

Joe Barone said...

Actually, if I had wanted to disagree or not comment, I would have.

I'll share with you what I shared with my wife. My further thinking about this book made we wonder about the role morality plays in the act of writing itself.

After all, the writer chooses the actions and the outcomes of the story.

This book seemed to me to be Parker's attempt to come back to tough. I had to wonder if he wasn't being criticized for making his character too soft in the previous stories. (Just a guess. Not anything I know.) Maybe he wanted to reclaim the tough guy credentials. But he couldn't do it without giving Spenser some kind of justification. So Spenser and Hawk kill the pimps because if they don't, the pimps will kill the prostitutes.

Walla! Justified cold-blooded murder on the part of a sensitive hero. But as a writer, when am I writing a good story, and when am I manipulating the plot for my own outside purposes.

Of course, if start thinking too much about that kind of thing, I drain my writing of any real life.

Honestly, I had somewhat the same questions about "The Scent of Lilacs" in this month's EQMM. I thought that was an excellent story, but it left me uneasy.

Thanks for your comments. I don't say that just to be polite. Your comments have made me think about the moral issues in the act of writing itself.

I think my Roy Rogers book shows where I come down. Terrible things happen because there is evil in the world. But I want my own writing to have a Roy Rogers, a positive hero, in it.