Chasing the Bear: A Young Spenser Novel

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Overview

For almost forty years, Robert B. Parker's inimitable private investigator Spenser has been solving cases and selling millions of books worldwide. Now, for the first time, see how it all began as the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master sheds light on Spenser's formative years spent with his father and two uncles out West. This is an event book for every fan of Spenser, and a revelation for teens about to discover an American icon.

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Chasing the Bear: A Young Spenser Novel

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Overview

For almost forty years, Robert B. Parker's inimitable private investigator Spenser has been solving cases and selling millions of books worldwide. Now, for the first time, see how it all began as the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master sheds light on Spenser's formative years spent with his father and two uncles out West. This is an event book for every fan of Spenser, and a revelation for teens about to discover an American icon.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Patrick Hunter
Parker tries and fails to adapt the highly successful "Spenser" franchise for young adults. Bear is two stories from Spencer's teen years with a little mix of his childhood thrown in, the later serving to try and achieve some development of character. Told in flashback, Spenser relates to his current girlfriend, Susan, how in his youth, he tracked and rescued his friend Jeannie after she had been kidnapped by her alcoholic father. The second story, again in flashback, details how Spenser offered protection to a Mexican boy in his town and refused to take sides in what amounts to a racist gang war amongst the youth in Spenser's hometown. This flashback could have been called "Mid-West Side Story." The main problem with Parker's adaptation of Spenser as a youth is that Spenser is fully developed as Spenser in his youth: he is tough; talks the no-nonsense of other hard-boiled gumshoes; he takes risks without too much thought or emotion; in short, he is not young Spenser as billed on the books cover, but rather, mini-Spenser. The age has changed and the stories are slightly different, but the character and theme is the same. The purpose of creating a younger version of a beloved character is to see the character before he or she developed into who you are familiar with now. Parker does not do this. There is little to give us a look into what makes the Spenser of today tick; how he got to be this way. Had we seen a little more of that, then Bear would be something worth reading. As it is, save it only for when you have gone through all the other mysteries of your bookshelf or just read a regular Spenser novel. Reviewer: Patrick Hunter
Publishers Weekly

Parker introduces young readers to private investigator Spenser, star of his bestselling adult novels, at age 14. Short chapters and Spenser's signature quick-fire delivery propel the story, which reveals the ways young Spenser uses the survival skills and scruples passed on to him by his loving, wise father and the two uncles who are raising him in a small town ("They took turns with everything.... So none of them got ground down, so to speak, by being the only parent"). Knowing when to defend himself and when to run away comes in handy when the teen encounters a black bear in the woods, rescues his friend from her drunken, gun-toting father and is ambushed by a gang of racist thugs after he protects a bullied Mexican peer. The narrative alternates between the youth's adventures and the reminiscences of an adult Spenser, who appears with his longtime love interest, Susan, in less compelling, present-day chapters in which he-at her prodding-offers insight into his past. Carefully tempered emotion, full-throttle suspense and subtle humor should win Parker's (Edenville Owls) detective enthusiastic new fans. Ages 12-up. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Booklist
A clean, sharp jab of a read.
VOYA - Walter Hogan
Parker's second young adult novel, following Edenville Owls (Sleuth/Penguin, 2007/VOYA June 2007), is a prequel to the author's famous Spenser series, now totaling three dozen adult crime thrillers. Here the hard-boiled Boston private detective recollects episodes from his childhood and early teen years, at the request of his lady friend, Susan. Readers learn that Spenser lost his mother at an early age and that he was raised by his father and two uncles, who modeled a strong male code of ethics while instructing the lad in the culinary and pugilistic arts. Most action occurs during Spenser's fifteenth year. After bravely rescuing his classmate, Jeannie, from her violent, drunken father, he finds himself in a tricky romantic entanglement. Then, having defending a Mexican boy from bullies, he is caught up in a local rivalry between white and Mexican gangs. These conflicts call on Spenser for just those qualities that will make him such an appealing character as an adult: chivalry towards women, rejection of bigotry, independent judgment, and a readiness to use his fists in defense of those values. For fans of the adult Spenser novels and television episodes, this book is a treasure trove of new stories about the formative years of a renowned fictional hero—although he still has no first name. Through Susan's probing questions and Spenser's responses, readers get a clear picture of how the boy evolved into the man. It is a superb choice for reluctant male readers, with short chapters, snappy dialogue, and plenty of physical action. Reviewer: Walter Hogan
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Parker's well-known detective hero, Spenser, reminisces to his beloved wife, Susan, about his Western childhood and workingman values bestowed upon him by his father and two uncles. The flashbacks derive from the lad's motherless household, in which Spenser is encouraged to throw punches at his uncles, who were accomplished boxers, and to learn how to defend himself against bullies. In another memory, young Spenser comes face to face with an angry black bear while bird hunting and stands his ground, though he is ultimately saved by his father's more powerful gun. This incident mentally prepares him for the dramatic tracking and rescue of a friend who was abducted by her abusive and alcoholic father. Parker's portrayal of Spenser's bravado in facing the bowie knife-wielding individual and escaping downriver is a compelling page-turner, and the man's demise shocking. This glimpse into the past explains much of the adult Spenser's backbone, though the stop-and-reflect method of storytelling may appeal more to adults than to teens who like their action uninterrupted, such as in his Edenville Owls (Philomel, 2007). Parker's dialogue-driven style and spare vocabulary are comparable to Gary Paulsen's The Beet Fields (Delacorte, 2000).—Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399247767
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/14/2009
  • Series: Spenser Series
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 391,057
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.32 (w) x 6.22 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert B. Parker was the author of more than fifty books. He died in January 2010.

Biography

Robert B. Parker began as a student of hard-boiled crime writers such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, but when he became a crime writer himself, he was one of the rare contemporary authors to be considered on par with his predecessors. The Spenser series, featuring a Boston-based ex-boxer and ex-cop, is one of the genre's most respected and popular fixtures.

Noted for their sharp dialogue and fine character development, the Spenser books carry on a tradition while updating it, particularly in giving its hero two strong alter egos in Hawk, a black friend and right-hand man; and Susan Silverman, Spenser's psychologist love interest. Parker's inclusion of other races and sexual persuasions (several of his novels feature gay characters, a sensibility strengthened in Parker through his sons, both of whom are gay) give a more modern feel to the cases coming into Spenser's office.

The Spenser series, which began with 1973's The Godwulf Manuscript, has an element of toughness that suits its Boston milieu; but it delves just as often into the complex relationship between Silverman and Spenser, and the interplay between the P.I. and Hawk.

By the late ‘80s, Parker had acquired such a reputation that the agent for Raymond Chandler's estate tapped him to finish the legend's last book, Poodle Springs. It was a thankless mission bound to earn criticism, but Parker carried off the task well, thanks to his gift for to-the-point writing and deft plotting. "Parker isn't, even here, the writer Chandler was, but he's not a sentimentalist, and he darkens and deepens Marlowe," the Atlantic concluded. In 1991, Parker took a second crack at Chandler with the Big Sleep sequel Perchance to Dream.

Parker took other detours from Spenser over the years. In 1999, Family Honor introduced Sunny Randall, a female Boston private eye Parker created with actress Helen Hunt in mind. Two years earlier, he introduced L.A.-to-New England cop transplant Jesse Stone in Night Passage. He also authored four bestselling Westerns featuring Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, a few young adult books, as well as several stand-alone novels that were well-received by his many fans.

Parker died suddenly in January 2010 while at home at his desk, working on a book. The cause was a heart attack. He was seventy-seven.

Good To Know

Parker's thesis in graduate school was a study of the private eye in literature that centered on Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Ross MacDonald. Critics would later put him in the same category as those authors.

Parker's main hero is named for Edmund Spenser, the 16th-century author of The Faerie Queene.

Parker had a hand in writing the scripts for some television adaptations of Spenser books starring Robert Urich, who also played Spenser in the ABC series from 1985-88. Urich suffered a battle with cancer and passed away in 2002, but adaptations continue to be made for A&E, starring Joe Mantegna. Parker approved of the new actor, telling the New York Times: ''I looked at Joe and I saw Spenser."

According to a profile in the New York Times, Parker met his wife Joan when the two were toddlers at a birthday party. The two reconnected as freshmen at Colby College and eventually had two sons. They credit the survival of their marriage to a house split into separate living spaces, so that the two can enjoy more independent lives than your average husband and wife.

Parker told fans in a 1999 Barnes & Noble.com chat that he thought his non-series historical novel All Our Yesterdays was "the best thing I've ever written."

Parker had a small speaking part in the 1997 A&E adaptation of Small Vices. How does he have time to write his Spenser books, plus the other series and the adaptation stuff? "Keep in mind, it takes me four or five months to write a novel, which leaves me a lot of time the rest of the year," he told Book magazine. "I don't like to hang around."

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    1. Date of Birth:
      September 17, 1932
    2. Place of Birth:
      Springfield, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Death:
      January 18, 2010
    2. Place of Death:
      Cambridge, Massachusetts
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Colby College, 1954; M.A., Ph. D. in English, Boston University, 1957, 1971
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 30 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Robert B. Parker provides insight into what shaped his hero, a role model of get involved

    Spenser and Susan are talking while watching the swan boats in the Boston Public Gardens as she wants to know more about what he was like growing up. His mother died giving birth to him, so he lived with his father and two uncles. The three men taught him to box and know right from wrong, which he realized early on may not always be legal.

    Jeanne is his first friend and she tells him how much she hates her father because he is an ugly drunk who beats up her and her mom. One day Jeanne calls out to fourteen year old Spenser from her father's truck asking him for help. He follows them and separates her from her dad. The drunk gives chase, but with a little help he dies in his attempt. Spencer tells the police before returning home.

    Spenser knows when to fight and when to take flight. He refuses to help the Anglo boys beat up Mexicans so the bullies challenge him, but Jeanne gets his family to the fight sight. When the Mexicans decide to fight, Spenser refuses to join them but also hides his information from the Anglos. Susan can see the teen roots of the present day Spenser.

    The same qualities that Spenser has as an adult can be seen as a teen because he does not care about one's race but instead the person. His Boy Scout tendency to help someone in need comes through loud and clear, especially his disinterest with rewards and accolades. Targeting young adults, Robert B. Parker provides insight into what shaped his hero, a role model of get involved.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2013

    I have read l the Spenser novels in order, and have enjoyed them

    I have read l the Spenser novels in order, and have enjoyed them all. The last few I have felt ended too abruptly, and should have had another chapter or too to wrap things up. While I liked the background from Spenser's childhood, this story just sort of stopped. It was way too short, and ended too soon. Definitely too short for the money. If you're reading the series, though, you can't skip it.

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  • Posted June 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    How he became thee Spenser

    I loved how it filled in a little bit of his younger life but still stayed in present format as he was telling Susan about his younger days.

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  • Posted October 15, 2011

    Robert b parker chassing the bear

    It is awesome evenn thought it has bad words

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  • Posted September 25, 2011

    The style and storyline are one hundred per cent Spenser.

    Do not be misguided by the young Spenser tag. This is a prototypical Spenser novel (novella?) and should be in the library of every Spenser fan. The subject material of a young Spenser is narrated by the mature version. And of course the authorship of an experienced Parker makes this story required reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2011

    Great prelude to Spenser but publisher very greedy on price

    This book is really a short story with a lot of 2 page chapters. I love Robert Parker's style and, as always, I enjoyed from beginning to end but.....this "book" has a total of 106 pages and publisher charged the same as for his fully developed novels just because they could. I hope the author wasn't cheated the same way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2011

    What makes Spenser Spenser

    Chasing the Bear- Short book, novella really from Robert B Parker. There is no mystery to be solved, its a conversation between Boston PI Spenser and his Harvard educated psychologist girlfriend about his childhood. It details what made young Spenser the Spenser that he is today. Fun read for Spenser fans (I am one) but it won't make much sense as a freestanding novel to anyone unfamiliar with the series. I found out recently that it's supposed to be a young adult novel. I really can't see it.

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  • Posted September 25, 2009

    Parker provides insight into Spenser.

    As we have long suspected, Spenser and Parker are much the same person whether or not they have had the same experiences.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2009

    Another Great Read

    I have always enjoyed all of Mr. Parker's novels, including this one! After reading the first few paragraphs of Chasing the Bear, I was already laughing at his understated humor and enjoying his easy-to-read conversations. This is another GREAT Robert B. Parker novel!

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  • Posted September 6, 2009

    Not Quite What I Expected

    Inasmuch as I love all of Robert Parker series, Spencer being my favorite, this book fell a little short. I had expected more detail of the young life of Spencer, rather than one tale from his childhood. It is a very fast read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Chasing the Bear is typical of Robert Parker's work. It's straight forward and interesting. An easy ready, but with alot of character depth. I wish I had read this one first so I would have had background on Spencer.

    I'm a big Robert Parker fan and have read every one of his books I could find. I like his style. He has simple, but effective character building skills and plots that keep you interested.

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  • Posted July 4, 2009

    Not my favorite Spenser

    I have all of the Spenser series books. I love the early ones - more action along with the philosophal discourse. The past few years of Spenser novels tend to be a lot of talk, big type, wide spacing and not much else. I will continue to purchase the Spenser novels but wish Parker would put more into his writing instead of bragging how many novels he has waiting to be published. Spreading them all too thin! And more Hawk!

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  • Posted June 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Where did Spenser come from?

    For long time Spenser fans this book answers a lot of questions about the child who became the man. The story switches back and forth from the current days with Susan to Spenser's recollections of his youth. Although a short, easy read do not consider this a children's book as there are references to Spenser and Susan's physical relationship. I enjoyed this peek into the past but found it not as satisfying as a Spenser mystery.

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  • Posted June 13, 2009

    Great author & great series

    Robert B. Parker is one of my favorite authors!!! He writes some graet characters & Specver is one of them. Reading his books is highly recommended!!

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    Posted September 25, 2009

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