On the Spenser series

Who is Silverman, What is She?

By S.J. Rozan

Ah, Susan Silverman the girlfriend we all love to hate.

Has ever a fictional character raised such ire, or caused such expressions of disdain and disgust–over and over?

As we do with real people who become our friends, when we come across a character we like in a book, our response is usually to stick with him. Or her. Thus, series. (And long-term friendships.) A character who gives readers a headache usually results in a book being prematurely donated to the library sale. Or, in a more robust reaction, thrown against the living room wall.

But Susan? No, it’s not that way with Susan.

Readers–and they are but few–who don’t like Spenser have no opinion on Susan. They’re through with her when they’re through with him; let’s move on. But most readers love Spenser, even at his most wobbly. Love Spenser, love Hawk, okay. But for many readers that love does not extend to former guidance counselor, lately Harvard PhD psychotherapist Susan Silverman. Over the course of Parker’s nearly forty-year career, readers hungrily snapped up each new Spenser book, gobbled down Spenser and Hawk–and spat Susan out. Most of the satellite and asteroid characters circling those two glowing suns–Paul Giacomin, Marty Quirk, Frank Belson, Rachel Wallace, even baddies like Joe Broz–met with reader approval. But not poor Susan Silverman. She’s usually seen as the price the reader has to pay for admission to Spenser’s world.

In 2003, Louis B. Park wrote in the Houston Chronicle that “Spenser readers are pretty much divided into two camps:  …

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