Announcing Robert B. Parker’s SPENSER book club

On Sunday November 22, we will begin discussing the first Spenser novel THE GODULF MANUSCRIPT. We have to start somewhere and the first published book seemed a good place. If it turns out to be a good experience we can select what to read next and set a time to discuss that selection.

About a month from now we will begin to discuss one of America’s favorite fictional Private Detectives. That will give anyone who wants to locate a copy and review the story – or for new readers who want to introduce themselves to the character some time to do so.

I am eager to hear what my fellow SDMB posters think and feel about one of my favorite fictional characters. All the things that might have gone over my head or details I missed. Maybe discuss very minor one time characters and how believable they seem? I hope this can be a way to double down on my reading enjoyment – first I will enjoy reading the story myself, then I can enjoy discussing the story with friends later.

I recall that a few years ago posters in Cafe Society watched a beloved (especially here on the SDMB) but previously cancelled TV program one episode per week and shared comments with each other. Often several days after a comment was made it stirred a new thought for someone else. Subtle motivations were discovered, foreshadowing revealed, just an overall deeper understanding of the material. I am hoping some of you can provide that for me, but even if it does not get that detailed I am sure to enjoy hearing what you have to say. If this goes beyond one event, we may even be able to see how Spenser becomes Spenser.

On November 21st or 22nd I will (unless one of you beat me to the punch) either start a new thread or bump this one to get us started. Hope to see you there!

Cool, one of my favorite characters, I’m in.

Excellent! Welcome, we will talk with you on November 22nd.
Looking forward to your comments on the first novel THE GODWULF MANUSCRIPT.

Good Monday Morning all. I intend to bump this thread every Monday leading up to the 22nd in hopes of gaining participants. On November 22nd we will begin to discuss the first Spenser book, The Godwulf Manuscript. I can’t wait to hear what all of you have to say about it!

Yesterday I was reading it and somewhere in chapter 5 Spenser muses something like: “I have spent half my lifetime in dingy rooms that look out on allies”. He wants to leave that room and drive north to see a part of America where you can revisit the good old days. It was such a good and wholesome daydream to have, and completely understandable because he was tired and involved in a mess. But then he reasoned that those ideal times in the past were probably an illusion and he was stuck where he was. Also he had to help someone who was way worse off than he was and in far over her head. It was warm and comfortable to spend time with him again with an instant sense of identity.


The book is more fully formed than I expected. I had a vague notion Parker floundered around a bit locking down who Spenser was. Already in the first book he has Belson and Quirk although they are more adversarial than they will become. He has a profound disdain for pompous men of power, position, or wealth. Or at least he is not as overly impressed with them as most would be. And lastly, he has his wit which is more smart aleck than clever at this point. (His irreverence and casual attitude in serious settings is a pattern for the David Addison character in Moonlighting I believe.) Parker makes a point of poking fun at his character as a guy who tries too hard to be funny and almost never succeeds, but his redeeming quality is that he is never scared, or overly influenced by power or overwhelming odds, and is never ever detoured from his goal. He also cuts to the heart of the matter at once and that is a trait which earns him mutual respect from those with a similar ability

It is very comforting to be in this universe again; I want to be just like Spenser when I grow up!

Another bump hoping to gain participants (and some evidence anyone else is reading or re-reading this first Spenser novel).

While trying to help out a young college student of privilege whom has been radicalized by what used to be called ‘the counter culture’ in those days, Spenser advises her to stay away from those elements for the time being and she replies:

Okay, but don’t laugh at us. We’re perfectly serious and perfectly right.”
Spenser tells her in reply:
Yeah, so is everyone I know.”

His retort is so world weary and kind of dismissive; to me, it sounds like a perfect commentary on the whole of society from a guy who has seen how unpleasant life can be. It is so easy to picture Bogie delivering that line once you know that Parker was a fan of Hammett. But I know from lots of experience with Spenser that he himself is very much an idealist and quite optimistic.

The humanity of Spenser is so evident to me through this exchange. Sure he is a hard boiled cynic, but often he is lonely and introspective. Not sure how much of that I grasped as a twenty something when I first read this, but as someone who now qualifies for AARP it really resonates. Also, the student’s attitude and even patterns of speech so perfectly captures my memory of the older kids in my neighborhood from those days. Now they would be considered young adults, but back then in the perfectly socially compliant suburbia I grew up in, adulthood was not conferred until age 21 at best (and only then if you were paying a significant amount of your own bills). Your opinions and your right to express them were contingent upon a level of self reliance more rare within that age group in my observation. (And yes, I realize what I must sound like – now you kids stay off my lawn!)

Is anyone else reading or re-reading the book? Any observations or impressions you would like to share before the official discussion launches on the 22nd?

I’m eyeing on reading it next week. I didn’t want to read it too much before 11/22 and forget by then :slight_smile:

I’m reading it. Quite a few elements are jarring to me reading in the 21st century. I’ll save it for the discussion, though.

I’m considering it. Would have to request it from my public library and drive down to collect. Not quite feeling the momentum yet.

New member here. Count me in. Parker is my favorite of all time, and I have read every Spenser novel.

Welcome! Are you a chocolate short hair like I see on the back cover of so many of my favorite books?

I am looking forward to hearing what each of you have to say on the 22nd.

Please join us, it will be worth a trip to library. I am sure you would enhance our discussion, and who knows we may have a great time. What do you have to lose?

I believe there may be others there who have not posted in this thread yet. I am sure there will be lurkers who want to see how we are as a community before jumping in.

I am sure like almost all Spenser fans you are all, tall, good looking, well read, fun, and tough as hell – but oh so gentle. So please, help me recruit the less enthusiastic to our discussion.

I just put a reserve in at my library. I should get notice to go down and pick it up in a few days.

Well, well-read, fun and tough as hell at least. 3 out of 5 isn’t bad. I lived in Boston from 1973-1985 so I’ve walked the same cobblestones and gazed up at some of the same bay windows so I have a good feel for the settings and characters. Drove the same cowpath streets, watched crews on the Charles. Sports cars and fast women I cannot claim.
I will warn everyone, I have a low tolerance for the Robert Parker ‘ghost’ legacy writers. Most are abysmal, a few are better than nothing (Ace Atkins comes to mind).

I was able to download from my library in ebook form. Evidently their only dead tree copy is away at the bindery.

Spencer is more like Mike Hammer in Godwulf. Hard Drinking, hard charging, and beds every woman who shows interest. Keep in mind it was written in the early 1970’s and Parker seemed heavily influenced by Mickey Spillane.

Spencer changes a lot after the first book. His drinking is more reasonable, except for occasional binges when he’s feeling overwhelmed by the moral depravity he encounters in his cases. Or he’s moping over his up and down relationship with Susan.

Oh, Spencer turns down a lot of offers from women because he’s carrying that torch for Susan. :innocent:

I really enjoy Godwulf because we see Spencer as a classic hard-boiled detective. A throwback to the fifties detectives.

What is a Hard-boiled detective? He’s become extinct in the modern world.,the%20law%20and%20assist%20justice.

For years I have been planning on at least making a trip to Boston (Click and Clack the Tappet brothers also fed this desire), but now it seems unlikely. I envy never seeing that historical location personally, but I have this romantic view of Boston.

What the books did change for me personally, is that since I was raised as a suburban kid on the verge of rural areas, the urban bustle of the Spenser universe made inner cities appealing for the first time ever. Downtown in big cities always seemed scary to me (maybe from TV) but Boston seemed welcoming and wholesome (except the Combat Zone which seemed like a warning from a morality tale).

And I hope we get to a point that we have exhausted Parker’s works and need to make a decision of whether to go elsewhere or disband. Fortunately, that time is well off for now.

Good news! I can never get technology to work for me for a whole novel. Fortunately, there are others around me to handle IT issues. My local library not only has dead tree copies, but Large Print copies of most of the books.

I have not read TGM for some time and actually expected it to be worse. The next four or five books all add important characters, and develop Spenser further. I actually kind of like the evolution (with a few exceptions). It gives him an arc of sorts and shows growth and development; I like that he is not created as ideally as he eventually becomes. It is easy for me to imagine he is sort of rewarded with an ideal support system and extra powers for taking the high road and being moral in the big picture. One thing that does bother me is the inconsistencies with his mother and how openly hostile he writes oversexed mothers in the first books.

As I picked up The Godwulf Manuscript for the first time in years, even though he is hard drinking and hard hitting, it wasn’t as regressive as I had remembered it to be. He is still smart and somewhat well read if not professorial as he eventually becomes. He does drink too much and beds all the women, but he is not just a womanizer or a lush. For me, Mike Hammer IS Stacy Keach (I never read the books -sheltered youth) and he was too well dressed, too glib, and wore a Fedora for goodness sake. I think of Spenser as being half Mike Hammer, half Rocky Balboa, and half Alistair Cooke (yes, he has three halves in my view). Part of his appeal to me is that he is such a regular ordinary guy who has bothered to exercise his mind as well as his delts and pecs. I am still in early chapters on purpose so I can recall details by the end of the month, but it seems he has a moral streak already. Often (early on) he is just stubborn just for the sake of being stubborn – but it seems he also has a great deal of conscious for a guy in his line of work.

I do like the more idealized Spenser he becomes later on, but I like visiting these old books. It is like knowing where Michael Jordan and Joe Namath played college ball before they became superstars.

Just a Monday Morning bump.

Come one, come all!
On November 22nd we will be discussing The Godwulf Manuscript. Please join us.

I was not able to read much this weekend, but we are two weeks away from official launch date. Looking forward to hearing what each of you has to say about the first book. (Is it too early to be thinking about reading the second book soon [or another if you prefer] and having another online discussion?)

Okay last bump. Sunday the 22nd is the official launch date. I will have to finish reading it this week. I am looking forward to hearing the observations of each of you. Feel free to share brief items here this week.

Since I am in a more westerly time zone, I might launch a new thread Saturday late and call it something like Parker’s The Godwulf Manuscript discussion Thread. Talk to you on the 22nd!

Don’t know why I didn’t see this sooner, but I’ve been a Spenser fan since the late Eighties and will be glad to join in. As it happens, in the past couple of years I’ve been listening to audiobooks of all the Spenser books in order of publication; my most recent is Pale Kings and Princes (1987), one of my favorites.

A discussion of Parker’s second Spenser novel God Save The Child is scheduled to begin on 27 December 2020.

The first novel The Godwulf Manuscript is being discussed here: