Friday, September 29, 2017

Forgotten Stories: The one and only SPENSER short by Robert B. Parker (1982)

I've been reading the Spenser series since the early '80s. I've been through the whole run several times, in both in print and audio, and I'm still enjoying the Ace Atkins efforts of the past few years. Though Red Harvest remains my single favorite book, Parker is my favorite writer, and the Spenser saga is my favorite series. I've heard everyone else's reasons for why they dropped out at one time or another, and they don't faze me at all. All of which goes to say that I identify as a Spenser superfan.

So how the heck did it get to be 2017 before I found out Parker had written a Spenser short story way back in 1982? Beats me! I just happened to see a short story listed on a Parker bibliography (not identified as a Spenser) and tracked down a copy of its first reprinting, in the 1991 anthology New Crimes 3. To my further embarrassment, I now find it was reprinted yet again in Boston Noir 2: The Classics in 2012.

"Surrogate," which runs 12 pages in the New Crimes 3, begins with a phone call from Brenda Loring, who reports that a man has broken into her home an raped her for the second time in two weeks. Brenda, you may recall, (related at least spiritually to Linda Loring, the woman Philip Marlowe met in The Long Goodbye and married in "The Poodle Springs Story") was the woman Spenser was dating in his first novel, The Godwulf Manuscript, back in 1973. She made only a couple more appearances before being aced out by Susan Silverman. 

In "Surrogate," we learn that Brenda has since been unhappily married and divorced. Spenser calls Hawk for help, and, with their usual aplomb, they bring the case to a satisfactory conclusion. No, it's not particularly great stuff, and it's not essential to the canon, but it is a genuine Spenser story, and to a superfan like me, cannot be ignored. This is me not ignoring it. 

The story was first published in a signed and numbered edition, limited to 300 copies, in 1982. The book, based on pics and descriptions found online, was a rose-colored hardcover with a gun motif on the boards (you be the judge), and a rose-colored dust jacket (at top) bearing a charcoal drawing of Brenda Loring. Is it ugly? I think so, but YBTJ. 50 of those copies were considered "deluxe," with a leather spine and blue cloth slipcase. 

I'm relying on internet pics and descriptions because the regular edition now commands between $400 and $1000, and two folks offering the deluxe job are asking $2500. Superfan yes, superrich no.


wayne d. dundee said...

Didn't this originally appear in a men's magazine? I want to say maybe GALLERY(?)That's where I read it, I just can't remember which one. I recall later on Parker mentioning it in an interview, saying it was originally intended for PLAYBOY ("I thought I would get to dance with a bunny," was his quip) but somehow that deal fell through. GALLERY would have been a poor substitute, but remember this was early in the Spenser juggernaut -- long before $400 special editions.

George said...

I have that BOSTON NOIR anthology. I'll have to read "Surrogate." Thanks for the heads up!

Evan Lewis said...

You may be right about the men's mag, Wayne. When it comes to this story, my ignorance knows no bounds.

Todd Mason said...

Looks like it was first published in the edition you feature in photographs, from Lord John Press, which publishes or published a lot of chapbooks like this, and an anthology series, LORD JOHN, where Dennis Etchison edited the one I have a copy of somewhere, apparently by some distance their most interesting volume.

I think GALLERY paid pretty well for fiction, even if perhaps half of what one might get at PLAYBOY. I suspect Lord John Press, for all the amateurish packaging, paid better than EQMM might've at the time.

Another place where this one popped up in reprint is in the UK magazine WORDS INTERNATIONAL in 1988:

Words International [v1 #3, January 1988] ed. Jean Shelley & Phillip Vine (Words International, £1.50, 60pp, A4, cover by Pamela Howard)
5 · From the Editors · [The Editors] · ed
5 · From the Readers · [The Readers] · lc
6 · The Emerald Dove · Les A. Murray · pm
7 · Cave Divers · Les A. Murray · pm
8 · Problems of Literary Biography · Park Honan · ar
14 · Cold Fever · Nicki Jackowska · pm
14 · Sounding the Fever · Nicki Jackowska · pm
14 · Writing the Fever · Nicki Jackowska · pm
14 · After the Fever · Nicki Jackowska · pm
15 · Poetry Competition · Anon. · cn
16 · Annie Wobbler [Part 1 of 2] · Arnold Wesker · pl; illustrated by Feliks Topolski
26 · Do Not Erect the Wall Before Yourselves · Marge Piercy · pm
27 · Dream of White Poppies · Marge Piercy · pm
27 · Three A.M. Feeding · Marge Piercy · pm
30 · Surrogate [Spenser] · Robert B. Parker · ss Lord John Press 1982
36 · T.S. Eliot, Robert Lowell and the New Critics · Philip Hobsbaum · ar [T. S. Eliot; Robert Lowell]
44 · Novel of the Month: Emily L, by Marguerite Duras · Anthony Suter · br
48 · Poetry of the Month: Fivemiletown, by Tom Paulin · Roland John · br
50 · Drama of the Month: Six Characters in Search of an Author, by Luigi Pirandello · Deborah Holmes · br
52 · New Year’s Books · Phillip Vine · br
56 · Secret Places · Ian Caws · pm
57 · Chanctonbury Ring · Paul Coltman · pm
58 · Crossword · Anon. · pz
58 · What the Dickens · Carla Ostrer · ct

Howard said...

I'm with you, enjoying every Spenser book indiscriminately, including the Atkins ones. But I am quite happy to get my reading at the library.