On the Spenser series

Songs Spenser Taught Me

By Ace Atkins

My introduction to Robert B. Parker came in the form of an aged paperback of The Godwulf Manuscript, its cover featuring a .45 automatic, a yellow rose, and bullet holes. “What a Find!” declared the L.A. Times. The name–as big as the title–read SPENSER. I got it for ninety-nine cents at a second-hand bookshop a few weeks after the unexpected death of my father. I was a sophomore at Auburn University, where I played football on scholarship, and I was, at the time, absolutely lost on all fronts.

Even before my dad had died, I wasn’t particularly having the time of my life in college. I had coaches who’d changed their mind about my talents and quickly used my father’s death to try to push me from the program and free up my scholarship. I spent a lot of time running laps and doing meaningless and demeaning drills. I was caught in that time between teenager and man and was still in need of a mentor to help me find my way out. Coaches were useless. My father was gone.

Spenser appeared in typical Spenser fashion: right when you need him most.

When someone asks me what made Spenser the character matter to me, the answer is pretty complicated. As a writer, I learned everything about hero-driven detective fiction–and just fiction in general–from Spenser and Robert B. Parker. Through Parker, I was introduced to the Big Three–Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald, an exclusive group he’s now joined. Spenser would lead me to a career  …

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