Anything I knew of his characters Spenser and Hawk comes from television, and I wasn't even a terribly devoted fan of Spenser: For Hire. I remember enjoying it when I occasionally watched it, but I was raising a toddler during its heyday, and nighttime television was something to which I fell asleep for the most part.
I have never been to Boston, but the aforementioned toddler I was raising back in the 1980's somehow became a devoted Red Sox fan, and actually delayed his official honeymoon for several months so that he and his bride could take in a game at Fenway and watch the Independence Day fireworks over the Boston Harbor.
There was more than a fair bit of brouhaha when Parker's estate signed off on letting another writer continue his Spenser series -- one that began in 1974 with the publication of The Godwulf Manuscript -- but I couldn't get all het up about it since I didn't have any interest in the series myself.
It didn't even matter to me that the writer chosen to take up Parker's mantle was one of my favorites. As long as Ace Atkins kept writing the books I wanted to read (the Quinn Colson novels), I didn't care if he wanted to pad his kids' college fund by taking on a little something on the side, but there was no way I was going to pick up the 41st book in a series that wasn't even written by the guy who wrote the series.
And yet, here I was, two years later, taking home a copy of Robert B. Parker's Lullaby. I had recently come up with a plan to go back and read books I missed over the past few years for various and sundry reasons. I developed a system: starting in the mystery section at the bookshop I'd make myself read one backlist book from each shelf, and wouldn't you know? There was Ace Atkins, and there was his first Spenser novel, and I was too tired to come up with a new system on the spot.
I have to take at their word the raves that Parker's hardcore fans gave Atkins for remaining true to Parker's style and characters and spirit. I have no basis for comparison.
But hell's bells, people. I had more fun with Spenser and Hawk and Mattie (the smack-talking 14 year old girl who hires Spenser to find out who really killed her mother) than I've had with a book in a long while. I laughed so hard so many times, and was on the edge of my seat at the end, craving a beer and deciding that there is no shame in jumping on a bandwagon and saving a seat for you, too.
Bottom Line: Atkins picked up Robert B. Parker's bat, and knocks one over the Green Monster. .