On the Spenser series

A Man for All Seasonings

By Brendan DuBois

During the benighted years of the early 1970s, a time of gas lines, a constitutional crisis, disco, and polyester leisure suits, most enthusiasts and observers of the mystery field generally accepted that the private eye novel, if not dead, was at least on life support, fading as fast as a snowflake on a hot stove. The idea of an armed man seeking justice on his own, using his fists and his intelligence, seemed out of time and place during an era when America was in decline and in retreat, when the presidency itself was under siege.

By its very nature, the private eye novel depended on a main character of honor, skills, and fortitude to carry the narrative. But in the troubled times of the 1970s, when the country seemed impotent, where questions of competence and truthfulness were directed to the very foundations of American society and government, was there really a literary PI hero out there who readers could possibly identify with?

The answer was yes, and what an answer it turned out to be.

It came from a relatively unknown college professor from Northeastern University, who published his first novel in 1973 featuring a one-named private investigator: Spenser. The first few paragraphs of that novel seemed to indicate that a new version of the smart, wisecracking private eye was making its debut.

From page one, chapter one, of The Godwulf Manuscript:

The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse. It was paneled in big  …

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