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History Into Fiction: The Writer's Art of Recreating the Past

Robert B. Parker: Writing to the Very End

The creator of the Spenser series of detective novels died at his desk this week while working on a new manuscript.

Although Parker was best known as a crime writer, he also delved into historical fiction. Two novels of note included Double Play, which dealt with Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier in baseball, and Appaloosa, one of his trilogy of Westerns that was made into a movie in 2008 by Ed Harris.

Sarah Weinman, who blogs about the mystery-suspense genre, wrote an appreciation of Parker in the Jan. 20 edition of The Los Angeles Times (Section D, Page 2).

For me, two things about Parker stood out: His remarkable proclivity and his disdain for editing.

According to Weinman, Parker told The Wall Street Journal in 2009: “I normally write seven to 10 pages a day, which means I generally finish a new book every three months. It comes easily, and I don’t revise because I don’t get better by writing a new draft.”

I’m not sure which is more astounding: Parker’s collection of nearly forty novels and other non-fiction works, or his ability to churn them out with little or no revision.

Yet his penchant for speed and production may have come at a cost. Weinman noted that “[a]s a consequence, even as he remained a fixture on bestseller lists, Parker’s most ardent fans turned into his toughest critics, pointing to ever-increasing white space, decreasing word counts and long passages of dialogue that barely moved the action.”

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