Thirty-four years ago, in another lifetime, the president of Howard Payne University handed me a copy of The Godwulf Manuscript and said something like this: "I thought you might like this one." Well, he was right, and ever since that day, I've read each of Robert B. Parker's books as they appeared.
Digression: By that time I'd read all the published Nero Wolfe books, and I was reading each new one as it came along. One thing I liked was finding the things I'd come to expect. I loved it when Wolfe counted the beer bottle caps or put on the yellow pajamas or went up to the orchid room. I was comforted when Archie had his glass of milk before bed. I'm just like a kid that way, and in fact around this time, my kids were both small and watching re-runs of Gilligan's Island on TV in the afternoons. They watched every episode over and over. My theory was that if there'd only been a single episode, they'd watch that one over and over. Maybe they were comfortable with the familiar, as I am. So now, to get sort of back to what this post is about, when I read a Robert B. Parker book, it's those familiar things that I sometimes enjoy.
And Now & Then is familiar. Very familiar. One reason is that it uses exactly the same plot as the last Sunny Randall book, which I recently read. If you don't believe me, read them both and see.
But who cares? Certainly not I. When you have Hawk and Vinnie and Chollo helping out, when you have Spenser cracking wise, when you have less of Pearl than usual (I didn't say I liked every familiar thing), then I'm happy. Even if Spenser doesn't say "We'd be fools not to" a single time.
Another thing I like is the occasional little joke like this one:
I nodded and looked at Chollo.
"Okay, Casey," I said. "Just get some informals while we talk."
"Si," Chollo said.
They both stared at him as Chollo took a big 35mm camera out of the bag and began focusing.
"He used to be a crime photographer," I said.
What makes me smile isn't so much that I get the reference. It's that Parker must have known that 99% of his readers wouldn't get it, and he didn't care. He put it in there for himself. I like a guy who likes to have fun, and I think Parker has fun writing his novels. I have fun reading them, too, no matter how much other people hate 'em. (Okay, I'm not that fond of Sunny Randall.)
There's a lot about Spenser's relationship with Susan in the book (it's part of the plot), and I'm wondering why, for the first time ever, there's a book not dedicated to Joan. This one's dedicated to Rose. I guess it's a nickname thing.
As usual, this is a much shorter book than it appears to be. It's nearly 300 pages, but you can read it in a couple of hours. Time well spent, at least for me.