I'm not much interested in Michael Brandman's Jesse Stone novels, but it's nice to see the first one, Killing The Blues, was a New York Times bestseller. I did furrow a brow at the Contra Costa Times praise, "Definitely classic Parker". How can it be classic if it's a new book? How can it be Parker if Parker didn't write it?
I also peeked in on the Robert B. Parker Facebook page and learned more about Ace Atkins's first Spenser novel, to be published May 1, 2012.
Here's a brief summary from Ace's blog:
LULLABY takes place the following spring after we last saw Spenser in SIXKILL. Spenser helps a tough 14-year-old girl from South Boston find justice for her mother, who was murdered four years ago. The girl, Mattie, believes the wrong man is doing life for the crime, because she saw two other toughs shove her mother in a car the night she died. Spenser soon finds those two toughs are connected to Gerry Broz, the screw-up son of infamous crime boss Joe Broz, a man who's been missing for more than a decade and posted at the top of the FBI most-wanted list.
The Parker Facebook page goes two sentences longer: "As the forces gather against Spenser, he reaches out to Hawk to provide added muscle and firepower. The bad guys don't stand a chance."
That last sentence especially seems tacked on in zeal, but also gives me the impression that Spenser and Hawk will come through unscathed, just as in Parker's last few novels. I hope Ace brings some freshness along the way, but we'd be fools not to acknowledge Spenser is a franchise in which many have a stake. Parker claimed to submit essentially his first drafts, but how much control did Putnam take from there?
Was the person who thought of such poetic titles as Taming a Sea-Horse and Pale Kings and Princes the same person who thought of Potshot? "Lullaby" sounds like a last book, not a continuation or the start of something new.
Evidently, Putnam chose to brand post-Parker books as you see, "Robert B. Parker's TITLE HERE". As such, one might assume that Atkins and Brandman were completing Parker's unfinished works. When I interviewed Ace for Crimespree #42, he told me his book was all-new. I would have branded the books, "Robert B. Parker's Spenser/Jesse Stone in TITLE HERE by Ace Atkins/Michael Brandman."
These thoughts occur to me having just received the latest U.S. reprint of John Gardner's first James Bond novel, License Renewed, for Christmas. The front matter includes excerpts from an interview of Gardner by Bond historian Raymond Benson. Gardner may be best remembered for bringing Bond forward in time, but he mentions the publisher placed many minor and major constraints on him. This probably contributed to his feeling at arms-length writing Bond.
From top to bottom, the cover of the new License Renewed lists Gardner's name in black, medium-sized type, "James Bond" surrounded by a black-and-red Double-0 logo—the word "Bond" is largest of all—and the title "License Renewed" in red, medium type. No mention of Ian Fleming.
I'm ambivalent about continuation, more in favor than against it. After all, with luck, characters become part of the collective consciousness, and each reader/writer's subtly different interpretation is part of the fun.