God Save the Child
Robert B. Parker
I have fond memories of Robert B. Parker,of which I have written before. His second Spenser novel, God Save the Child, did not transport me as The Godwulf Manuscript did. That is not to say I liked it less. I simply had no memory of it. I’m certain, from the look of the cover, that it graced the corner of the coffee table, and the lid of the toilet tank. That’s not a real surprise, since I only have clear memories of Rachael Wallace and Godwulf. But I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless.
An opening scene makes or breaks a novel. I just don’t have time to read, watch, or listen to crap. At times, I’ll plow through even when something isn’t great, but only if I have reason to believe it will improve with time. This Spenser novel had me at the first paragraph.
“If you leaned way back in the chair and cranked your neck hard over, you could see the sky from my office window, delft-blue and cloudless and so bright it looked solid. It was September after Labor Day, and somewhere the corn was probably as high as an elephant’s eye, the kind of weather when a wino could sleep warm in a doorway.
“Mr. Spenser; are you listening to us?”
In 70 words I know who Spenser is, how he is daydreaming, where he isn’t, when he is, where he is. It brings a smile to my face because of the brevity, and the honesty.
Like Godwulf, however, I was surprised by the difference in culture. Times are a changing, I suppose, or maybe it is the vocabulary. The main suspect lives on a commune. I suppose we might call it a compound if it were in Waco, or a cult headquarters if they stored sarin gas. Perhaps I split hairs, but it did strike me, so I include it here.
I was also struck by the comparison to The Escape, which I reviewed recently. Spenser is described as big in t he novel, and he’s six foot one, 185 pounds. A secondary character is described as “a medium tall man, maybe five ten” . Compare this to John Puller in The Escape. It seems like you can’t be a strong jawed hero in the 21st century, unless your taller than six four and weigh 230. I wonder when the escalation started?
Similarly, there is a climactic fight scene, and Spenser uses skill over brawn. He is worried, and in trouble, and when he triumphs, he is sympathetic to his opponent. It is a more human story, one of love and hate and jealousy. There are no weapons of mass destruction, snipers, computer experts, assassins, or femmes fatale. And I kind of like it that way.
2 thoughts on “Book Review – God Save the Child”
You’ve touched on some of the things that made Parker a better writer than the airport-thriller writers. Spenser is a hero, but he’s not a superhero. He’s depicted as an actual person. If he’s in good shape, it’s because he runs and lifts weights. If he’s good in a fight, well, he used to box–and we find out that he was a good boxer, but not a great one. Sometimes he fights and loses. He worries about human things: his girlfriend, his caffeine intake, whether he should eat another donut. He’s maybe a little bigger, a little better, a little nobler than anyone I’ve met, but–unlike the Doc Savage/airport thriller/movie James Bond archetype–you could actually imagine meeting this guy.
Yes, JT, exactly. The story is more compelling because it is believable. No weaponized virus, no end-of-the-world scenario.