Sunday, July 8, 2012

SIXKILL by Robert B. Parker







“Ain’t a lot of happy endings here,” [Z] said.

“There often aren’t,” I said.

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In his last Spenser novel, Sixkill, Robert B. Parker introduced a new continuing character.

Zebulon Sixkill is a Cree warrior. Sixkill himself asks Spenser not to call him a Native American. Sixkill says his people came from somewhere else too.

Sixkill (called Z) bodyguards a boorish obese movie star named Jumbo Nelson. A young woman groupie died in Jumbo’s bedroom after having had sex with Jumbo. Spenser’s cop-friend Quirk asks Spenser to find out if Jumbo murdered the young woman. Quirk expects what happened is the result of kinky sex.

Jumbo sets his bodyguard Sixkill on Spenser. Spenser easily thrashes Sixkill. Then when Jumbo fires Sixkill (a huge athletic former football player), Spenser takes Sixkill under his wing, teaches him to box and shoot a pistol. Spenser helps Sixkill begin to put his life back together.

In this book, Spenser has the kind of relationship with Sixkill that the men who brought Spenser up had with Spenser. Parker tells that story in his youth novel Chasing the Bear.

As it turns out, Jumbo and his film studio are heavily involved with the Los Angeles mob. Those people put out a contract on Spenser. They send their most feared killer, the husband of the mob boss’ daughter, to kill Spenser.

Spenser and Sixkill work together to deal with the man.

This book is a character study. Surely Parker planned to use Sixkill (maybe along with some of the rest of the cast) in later books.

Also, as I finished the book, I had the thought that there’s no way this story is over. Spenser has killed the well-liked son-in-law of a powerful Los Angeles mob boss. I would expect to see the Los Angeles mob come after Spenser.

So, with this book, the Parker-written Spenser novels come to an end. To me this forty-book-series is a testimony to the craft of writing, to a writer dedicated to telling stories people wanted to read.

Are there weaknesses in the Parker novels? How could there help but be? The more of them I read, the more bothered I became by what I saw as a kind of sexism in the novels. Spenser’s code frames women in a way that elevates them but makes them objects too. But I enjoyed the books. And I greatly admire Parker. He kept writing to the end.

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