Friday, December 3, 2010

Forgotten Books: Family Honor by Robert B. Parker

Ten years ago, when I read this book for the first time, I remember thinking, Jeez, this is just Spenser with breasts. It was a weird experience. Sunny Randall's narrating voice is identical to Spenser's, so I'd get sucked in for a moment, then shoved right out when she'd think about some guy having a cute butt or wonder if she should carry her gun in bra.

The supporting cast, too, are clones. Instead of Hawk, Sunny has Spike the tough gay guy. Instead of Pearl the wonder dog she has Rosie the bull terrier. Instead of Susan she has ex-husband Ritchie, whom she loves but can't live with (and to add to the derivation game, Ritchie is also a clone for Jesse Stone's ex-wife Jenn). 

Even the plot of this one is a Spenser rip-off. Sunny saves the daughter of a client from prostitution (like Spenser tried to do with April Kyle) and ends up adopting her (like Spenser did with Paul Giacomin). And so on.

All this was so distracting I had a hard time appreciating the book for what it was, and was not eager to read the next in the series. But I did. And eventually the rest, until I'd finished all six. As Sunny came fully into Spenser's world, sharing the stage with Quirk, Belson, Healy, Gino Fish, Tony Marcus and even Susan, the series became more fun. And when she crossed over into a couple of books in the Jesse Stone series, it was obvious Parker was having fun too. And along the way, Sunny grew into her own character.

Now, reading Family Honor for the second time, it's a different experience. This is a great read. I'm sad there will be no more books in the series, but I'm damn glad to have six, and look forward to reading them all again.

You may have heard that Parker wrote this book especially for Helen Hunt. It's true. Here's the story in Parker's own words, from a 2000 interview with bookreporter.com:

What happened was that Joan and I were in Los Angeles in 1997. I received a call from John Calley, the CEO of SONY Pictures, who wanted to know if I would be interested in listening to a proposal. It seemed that Helen Hunt wanted a female Spenser-type character to be used as a vehicle for her production company for one or more movies. Joan and I met with John, Helen, and Amy Pascal, who was President of Columbia Pictures at the time, in John’s office on the old MGM lot in what used to be Louie Meyer’s office. I won’t pretend that Joan and I are so sophisticated that we were not impressed by being picked up in a limousine and transported to a movie lot which is full of history and sitting in on a meeting like that! Anyway, I entered into an agreement with Ms. Hunt’s production company, and Sunny Randall was created soon thereafter. I wrote FAMILY HONOR and a film based on the book is in the planning stage, though I am not entirely sure what is happening with it at this point. My publisher, however, liked FAMILY HONOR and asked for more. The result of that is PERISH TWICE. 


The Helen Hunt film, as you are no doubt aware, was never made. Too bad. It might have been a good 'un.

Tune into pattinase for this week's glorious lineup of Forgotten Books.

9 comments:

Bill Crider said...

Always glad to see a plug for Parker. And it's too bad they didn't make that movie.

George said...

I'll go see anything with Helen Hunt in it. I agree with you and Bill: this would have made a good movie.

Richard Prosch said...

I had a hard time with Sunny Randall at first too. I've only read the first three, so maybe it's time to revisit them!

Todd Mason said...

Clearly, a Leelee Sobieski franchise awaits! I've read at least one Spenser with Randall as a character, but I'll need to go back and see the Randall books, too...

Charles Gramlich said...

I've never read anything about this character of Parker's. I do like Helen Hunt, though.

pattinase (abbott) said...

She looks gorgeous in that photo.

Oscar said...

I didn't quite picture Helen Hunt as Sunny Randall, but she may have been the perfect one.

David Cranmer said...

I enjoyed the Sunny novels but think he did just a tad better with Jesse Stone. A Helen Hunt film would have been nice. I remember a picture of Parker and Hunt together at the time of the announcement. I wonder what happened?

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

A movie would be fine but if the recent photos I've seen of Helen Hunt are accurate she'd be better cast as Miss Marple.