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What's All This Then?

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Spenser Mystery Novels
by Robert B. Parker

Field-Tested by Mark Bazer

in a car on the road

I wish I could claim that I've perspired all over some Hemingway while simultaneously participating in the running of the bulls, or at the very least, worn out a copy of The Castle while waiting to cancel my organ donor status at the DMV.

Alas, I only read in bed, after my parents had tucked me in. But when I was around 11, I did devour every Spenser mystery novel I could get my hands on during a family road trip up the coast of California. When I should have been looking out in awe over the cliffs in Big Sur, I was Looking for Rachel Wallace. When I should have been saying, "Gee, pops, it sure is hilly here," during the few days spent in San Francisco, I was getting carsick reading Mortal Stakes. And with no clue that Spenser was partly modeled on the fictional hard-boiled heroes who'd scoured the seedy streets of L.A., I had my nose in Early Autumn, God Save the Child, or A Savage Place.

Truthfully, I have no idea exactly where on the trip I read which Spenser mystery. Robert B. Parker had already written a million of them by then (though he hadn't yet succumbed to his current the-less-words-per-page -the-better model), and every town we passed through meant a trip to a bookstore for a refill. Maybe I was homesick — Spenser and I both lived in Greater Boston. Really, though, this was my baptism into the detective novel. The opposite of a great vacation, paperback page-turners aren't supposed to create ‘memories that last a lifetime.’ But while I can't recall the plots to any of the books I read that trip, I met a fictional friend I still meet up with every year or so. I don't travel much, but as cliché as it sounds, when I want to ‘get away from it all,’ I still reach for a good book about someone who's been murdered.

Mark Bazer is a syndicated humor columnist and the host of the live Chicago-based talk show The Interview Show. Columns and information about the show are available at his website.

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