Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Magical Experience

Author Barbara Kurtz

A friend told me my favorite author was going to host a book signing in my town. I had been reading this famous writer’s books for at least twenty years, and at the time of the signing I had read every book he’d written. The thought of seeing him in person, hearing his voice and listening to him speak was an immense thrill.

I walked into the bookstore that was packed for this special occasion, seeing him for the first time. A tall, masculine man in his late sixties, generating an appeal and energy that presented him as much younger than his years. He spoke to his audience about his writing and some personal issues, such as his health which at that time was much improved than it had been for some time. He credited “the doctors at Mass General” for their encouragement and mentoring which led him to a fifty pound weight loss and realizing the importance of a daily workout.

He was honest and humble about his formative years, stating that most of the men in his family had been blue collar workers. He generously invited the group to ask questions, then said he would be happy to sign copies of his book and speak to everyone individually.

He was known as the “Dean of American Crime Fiction.” His sense of humor and comfortable, easy writing style gave the impression his story telling came without effort. That was the genius of Robert B. Parker, and the incredible gift he gave his readers – knowing how to make it look easy when it wasn’t. He kept us turning the pages and craving his stories year after year. He published two books a year, but greedy me wanted more. And so did all his fans. We couldn’t get enough of Spenser and Hawk, Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall.

As a writer it was important to me to try and analyze his formula and technique; to unlock the secrets of what made his characters and style so appealing…like that dark, expensive chocolate you hide from others, to reward yourself. But I couldn’t find the keys. There was no way to figure out the inner-workings, the various parts that made his magic work as thoroughly well as it did. I was, however, able to place one small piece of the puzzle together. Parker let the reader in on the protagonist’s (which of course, was his own) personal opinion of each of the book’s characters. 

Spontaneous Combustion by Barbara Kurtz
Whether it was Spenser, Jesse Stone or Sunny Randall, each would leisurely explain their insight regarding each player they dealt with as the story progressed; how that character’s personality, quirks and style came across and affected him. In doing so, Parker made the reader feel as though you were his close friend and confidant. Someone he liked well enough to share his personal opinions with. If Parker didn’t particularly care for one of his characters, (or if he did), he took his time with humor, and making a great deal of fun out of it, telling you why. In doing so, he took you into his confidence, becoming his bosom buddy and the person he shared his deep, inner thoughts with. And that made his death even more difficult for his followers. He didn’t have to know each of us personally to be our close friend. He was the companion we visited with often, each time we read, or reread, one of his books.

After addressing the group at the book signing, my husband and I approached him for his autograph. I know I was smiling too brightly, and worse, I made a fool of myself when I blurted out – “I’ve read every book of yours…that you’ve ever written.” With a serious expression he nodded kindly and thanked me with sincerity. He came across exactly the way Spenser did in all those novels – a man of the world; a renaissance man. I’ll always miss that elusive gift he bestowed his readers. 

After his death, the online accolades all carried the same tone, very similar to this piece. All of his fans were in awe of Robert B. Parker’s grasp of his art and contribution to humanity.

Barbara can be reached on Facebook and Twitter.

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