Lit fans, sorry this has been a TV/movie blog lately. I've been working on Issue 2 of The Lineup: Poems on Crime and yesterday completed my first poem in a while. I do have a few books to blog about in the near future. I haven't Twittered much this past week, either, but a new interview with Robert B. Parker caught my attention yesterday.
Parker has largely given the same answers for years, to the point I wonder why anyone thinks he's a good interview anymore. In this new interview with the Wall Street Journal, he says he doesn't think Ross Macdonald will be read in fifty years, which started some people on Twitter thinking about Parker's legacy and which writers will be read in fifty years.
Parker's legacy is that he helped re-popularize P.I. fiction in the 1970s, along with writers like Bill Pronzini, Lawrence Block, Roger L. Simon, Stephen Greenleaf, Marcia Muller... I used to think he was hurting his legacy continuing the Spenser series as long as he has, but whatever he does in the present won't change his most significant contribution to the genre: a protagonist as psychologically deep as he was physically tough. And where previous characters of the type had been loners, Spenser maintained his relationship with Susan Silverman as well as many friendships.
Is a Spenser book today as good as one from ten, twenty, or thirty years ago? No. But Parker still shows an economy with words that is distinctly his own. You can hear it in the Jesse Stone movies and Appaloosa, the best adaptations of his work to date. This is his legacy as well.
Parker might be better thought of if he'd stopped writing at a higher point of fame, but the same can be said of anyone. Through his willingness to keep writing, Parker has earned the right to dictate his own career path.
Will Parker or anyone else be read in fifty years? I don't know, but one way to ensure one is read is to keep publishing, building a body of work as Rex Stout did, as Parker has done.