Spenser has his hands full when he takes on two cases at once. In the first, a high-minded university might be hiding a killer within a swamp of political correctness. And in the other, Spenser comes to the aid of a stalking victim, only to find himself the unwilling object of the woman's dangerous affection.
About the Author
Date of Birth:September 17, 1932
Date of Death:January 18, 2010
Place of Birth:Springfield, Massachusetts
Place of Death:Cambridge, Massachusetts
Education:B.A. in English, Colby College, 1954; M.A., Ph. D. in English, Boston University, 1957, 1971
Read an Excerpt
Outside my window a mixture of rain and snow was settling into slush on Berkeley Street. I was listening to a spring training game from Florida between the Sox and the Blue Jays. Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano were calling the game and struggling bravely to read all the drop-ins the station had sold. They did as well as anyone could, but Red Barber and Mel Allen would have had trouble with the number of commercials these guys had to slip in. The leisurely pace of baseball had once been made for radio. It allowed the announcers to talk about baseball in perfect consonance with the rhythm of the game. We listened not only to hear what happened but because we liked the music of it. The sound of a late game from the coast, between two teams out of contention on a Sunday afternoon in August, driving home from the beach. The crowd noise was faint in the background, the voices of the play-by-play guys embroidering on a dull game. Now there was little time for baseball talk. There was barely time for play-by-play. And much of the music was gone. Still, it was the sound of spring, and it took some of the chill out of the slush storm.
Just after the fifth inning started, Hawk came into my office with a smallish man in a short haircut, wearing a dark three-piece suit and a red and white polka dot bow tie. His skin was blue black and seemed tight on him. I turned the radio down, but not off.
"Client," Hawk said.
"Ever hopeful," I said.
I recognized the small man. His name was Robinson Nevins. He was a professor at the university, the authorof at least a dozen books, a frequent guest on television shows, and a nationally known figure in what the press calls The Black Community. Time magazine had once referred to him as "the Lion of Academe."
"I'm Robinson Nevins," he said and put his hand out. I leaned forward and shook it without getting up. "Hawk may be premature in calling me a client. We need to talk a bit first, among other things we ought to find out if we can get along."
"Whose tab?" I said to Hawk.
"Guarantee half everything I get," Hawk said.
"That much," I said.
"I can't afford very much," Nevins said.
"Maybe we won't get along," I said.
"I am dependent largely on a university salary and, as I'm sure you know, that is not a handsome sum."
"Depends what sums you're used to," I said. "How about the books?"
"The books are well received, and have influence I hope beyond their sales. Their sales are modest. I make some money on the lecture circuit, but far too often I speak because I feel the cause is just rather than the price is right."
"Don't you hate when that happens," I said.
Nevins smiled, but not as if he thought I was funny.
"What would you like to pay me a modest amount to do?" I said.
"I have been denied tenure," Nevins said.
I stared at him.
"Tenure?" I said.
"And you want me to look into that?" I said.
"Tenure," I said.
I was silent. Nevins didn't say anything else. I looked at Hawk.
"You want me to do this?" I said to Hawk.
I was silent again.
"I understand your reaction," Nevins said. "I sound churlish to you. And you think that there are causes of greater urgency than whether I get tenure at the university."
I pointed a finger at Nevins. "Bingo," I said.
"I know, were I you that would be my reaction. But it is not simply that I am denied tenure and therefore will have to leave. I can find another job. What is at issue here is that I shouldn't have been denied tenure. I am more qualified than most members of the tenure committee. More qualified than many who have received tenure."
"You think it's racial?" I said.
"It would be an easy supposition and one most of us have made correctly in our lives," Nevins said. "But I am, in fact, not sure that it is."
"What else?" I said.
"I don't know. I am something of an anomaly for a black man at the university. I am relatively conservative."
"What do you teach?"
"Well, my perspective. I include black writers, but I also include a number of dead white men."
"Daring," I said.
"Do you know that we are turning out English Ph.Ds who have never read Milton?"
"I didn't know that," I said. "You think you were shot down for being insufficiently correct?"
"Possibly," Nevins said. "I don't know. What I know is there was a smear campaign orchestrated by someone, which I believe cost me tenure."
"You want me to find out who did the smearing?"
I looked at Hawk again. He nodded.
"Wouldn't an attorney be more likely to get you your tenure?"
"I am not fighting this because I didn't get tenure. I'm fighting this because it's wrong."
"If you got the tenure decision reversed, would you accept it?"
Nevins smiled at the question.
"You press a person, don't you," he said.
"I like to know things," I said.
"Like how sincere I am about fighting this because it's wrong."
"That would be good to know," I said.
"If I were offered tenure I would have to assess my options. But even if I accepted it, the process was still wrong."
"What was the thrust of the smear campaign?"
Hawk appeared to be listening to the faintly audible ball game. And he was. If asked, he could give you the score and recap the last inning. He would also be able to tell you everything I said or Nevins said and how we looked when we said it.
"A young man, a graduate student, committed suicide this past semester. It was alleged to be the result of a sexual relationship with me."
"What was his name?" I said.
"Any truth to it?"
"I imagine you'd like that laid to rest as well."
"Okay," I said.
"Okay meaning you'll do it?"
Nevins seemed mildly puzzled.
"Aren't you going to ask if I'm gay?"
"But," Nevins frowned, "it might be germane."
"If it is, I'll ask," I said.
Nevins opened his mouth and closed it and sat back in his chair. Then he took a green-covered checkbook out of his inside coat pocket.
"What will you need for a retainer?"
"No need for a retainer," I said.
"Oh, but I insist. I don't want favors."
Hawk was looking out the window at the slush accumulating around the stylishly booted ankles of the young women leaving the insurance companies on their way to lunch.
Without turning around he said, "He doing me the favor, Robinson."
Nevins was not slow. He looked once at Hawk, and back at me, and nodded to himself. He put the green checkbook back inside his coat and stood.
"Do you need anything else right now?" he said.
"No. I'll poke around at it, see what develops."
"And I'll hear from you?"
"Yes," I said.
"Will you be involved, Hawk?"
Hawk turned from the window and grinned at Nevins.
"Sure," he said. "I'll help him with the hard stuff."
Nevins put out his hand. "I appreciate your taking this," he said, "for whomever you're doing the favor."
I shook it.
"You need a ride anyplace?" he said to Hawk.
Hawk shook his head. Nevins nodded as if to confirm something in his head, and turned and left. Hawk continued to look out the window. The ball game had moved quietly into the eighth inning. Outside my window it was mostly rain now. Hawk turned away from the window and looked at me without expression.
"Tenure?" I said.
"'Fraid so," he said.
Table of Contents
On Monday, March 8th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Robert B. Parker to discuss HUSH MONEY.
Moderator: Welcome, Robert Parker! Thank you for taking the time to join us online this evening. How is everything in New York City tonight?
Robert B Parker: It is kind of chilly.
Gerald from Old Westbury, NY: You've worked with Spenser for 25 years. How do you manage to keep him fresh for yourself, your fans, and new readers? Thank you.
Robert B Parker: I drink heavily in the morning. I think a more serious answer to that is that I don't outline the book. I start with one sentence or an idea and that is all I know when I start. I don't rely on a formula. There is a sort of freshness from our mutual discovery.
Joe Nooney from Valatie, NY: I have been a fan of the Spenser (and now Jesse Stone) novels for years. My question is, are Spenser and Susan ever going to tie the knot?
Robert B Parker: I don't know. All I know is that they haven't tied it in HUSH MONEY.
JWC901@aol.com: I loved HUSH MONEY. I thought you were completely accurate in your portrayal of these various interest groups. Question, did you go to any school and research these ridiculous institutions? It sure seemed you like you went to my college....
Robert B Parker: I was a professor for ten years.
The Old Man from UT: Congrats! One of your critics wondered how an old guy could keep up the pace (in the story line). Don't they realize that as you get older, barring injuries, you just get tougher?
Robert B Parker: I realize that; we old guys are tough....
email@example.com: I love your books and I am a huge fan, but I have a question about your last Jesse Stone novel -- TROUBLE IN PARADISE. You might not remember this, but I was confused as to how Faye got off the island and was able to get to Jenn's house. We see Faye bust into the house of Marcy Campbell on the island, then they blow the bridge up. How was it possible for Faye to be in the house of Marcy Campbell, then get off the island and get over to Jenn's house? Thanks!
Robert B Parker: In my memory, Faye was never on the island.
Dell from New York City: Is it true that A&E is going to bring Spenser back to the screen? When is that slated to run? Also, have they cast the new Spenser?
Robert B Parker: Yes, we have a deal with A&E to do both Spenser and Stone; the first Spenser movie will be out this June; Joe Mantegna will be the new Spenser.
Janie Robertson from Little Rock, AR: Do you perceive a difference in the public's reaction to your nonseries novels -- WILDERNESS, written early in your career; LOVE AND GLORY, written after the Spenser novels were well-established; and the more recent ALL OUR YESTERDAYS -- and how have you come to terms with your own desire to use your considerable talent, education, and experience in more diverse ways? I own everything you have written. I admire you greatly -- and I don't own a television, either.
Robert B Parker: Alright! The public reacts better to the series characters; the non-series books have never sold as well, and that is OK. I do them anyway now and then. I did LOVE AND GLORY because I wanted to. I was surprised that ALL OUR YESTERDAYS didn't sell better -- I thought it was the best thing I've ever written. I guess the audience knows what they want or don't want. If I knew why books sell and don't sell, I would be a rich man.
Bill from Springfield, MA: Will there ever be a full accounting of Hawk's past?
Robert B Parker: I was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, and no, there will never be a full accounting of Hawk's past.
Ed Gorman from Cedar Rapids, IA: Do you think writing in the first person is more natural than writing in the third? Since so much of your power depends on "voice," does first person appeal to you more than third?
Robert B Parker: Yes, to both those questions.
Jim Sawyer from Newport News, VA: Is it true you are creating a female detective for Helen Hunt? If it is true, will you introduce the new character in the Spenser books or start a new series?
Robert B Parker: Yes, it is true. I have finished the novel about Sunny Randall -- a female P.I. It will be published this fall, then plans call for Helen to start shooting about 15 months from now in Boston. Her plan would be to make a series of movies -- we will see.
Seth from Berlin, NJ: Hello, Mr. Parker. You were a professor? Where? What did you teach? Thanks for taking my question. I can't wait to read HUSH MONEY.
Robert B Parker: Yes, I was a professor. I probably didn't teach anything. I was a professor of American Literature at Northeastern.
Brian F. from Livingston, NJ: I saw that piece about you in The New York Times. Who is the better cook, Robert Parker or Spenser?
Robert B Parker: Oh, Spenser, by far. I am an adequate cook, but I make up most of that stuff that he cooks.
Charlotte from Phoenix: Will you be writing about Jesse Stone from NIGHT PASSAGE again? Don't replace Spenser, but I would enjoy more of him. I am a total fan, read them all and am a BU graduate...thanks for many hours of fun and good reading.
Robert B Parker: Yes, I will be writing about Jesse Stone. I have done TROUBLE IN PARADISE, out in paperback about now. I plan to do Spenser in the spring and Jesse in the fall. Except this year when Sunny Randall will be here in the fall.
Ed from Denver: Jesse Stone is more vulnerable, less superhuman than Spenser. Is this a delberate departure for you?
Robert B Parker: Yes, I thought I would try someone who is a little less evolved.
Lou from Boston: What the hell happened to the Sox? They let Vaughn go and now they have to face Clemens as a Yankee?
Robert B Parker: The answer to that is, the same old thing happened to them.
Bill from Oshawa, Canada: I haven't seen HUSH MONEY up here yet but can hardly wait. What is Spenser's favorite beer these days?
Robert B Parker: Blue Moon Belgium White Ale.
Martha from Cincinnati: I love your writing "style." How much do you rewrite? Do you wait until you are finished with the whole novel or do you rewrite as you go along? And do you think Joe Walcott could take Hawk in 10 rounds?
Robert B Parker: I don't rewrite much as I go along. I never rewrite afterwards. I write on a computer and I make minor corrections as I go. Basically, you get the first draft. I think it would be a draw between Hawk and Joe Walcott, if both were in their prime.
Jeff from Seattle: I know that you wrote your doctoral thesis about Hammett, Chandler, and Ross MacDonald. I've read your comments about the first two before, but what do you think of MacDonald's work? Do you owe him any sort of inspirational debt?
Robert B Parker: No, I don't owe him much debt as inspiration; what he did was make people take detective stories seriously.
Paul Vollmar from Houston: In your dissertation, you analyzed the progress of the violent hero through American literature, starting with Cooper's LEATHERSTOCKING up to Hammett, Chandler, and MacDonald. It is obvious that Spenser fits this mold as well. Have you ever thought of writing one of your non-Spenser novels to take place in the frontier era, to, in a sense, write about a Spenser-like character in the era that you identify as molding the private conviction of morality that Spenser exhibits? As a reader of Louis L'Amour, I've found that L'Amour fans often cite his non-westerns (LAST OF THE BREED -- 20th century, and THE WALKING DRUM -- 12th century) as their favorites. You could write about an 18th-century Spenser and still keep him in Boston!
Robert B Parker: In my spare time (which I have very little of), I am working on a novel about Wyatt Earp.
N from State College, PA: A fighter, cook, boxer, listener, reader. What do you believe are some of the qualities that make Spenser human rather than a checklist for the consummate male?
Robert B Parker: I think his humanity is probably rooted mostly in his love for Susan. Also, he makes mistakes.
Aaron Boston from Marlboro, MA: Do you think the writing process varies greatly when you are writing a Stone novel versus a Spenser novel? Is it tougher to write Spenser novels just for the sheer reason that you have already written so many Spenser novels, and coming up with original content is more difficult?
Robert B Parker: The writing process doesn't vary, and no, one is not more difficult than the other.
Bill from Springfield: Who will be playing Hawk on A&E? Do you find Hawk more fun to write for than the other characters? I find him the most enjoyable to read. Will there ever be a partial disclosure of Hawk's past?
Robert B Parker: Shiek Mahmud-Bey will be playing Hawk. No, fun isn't quite the word for what goes on there. It is neither easier nor harder to write Hawk, but it is a lot more fun than a real job.
Branton from Cambridge, MA: Are there any interest groups that you believe in? Thanks! Also, are they ever going to make a Spenser movie?
Robert B Parker: Generally speaking, no.
Nancy from Plano, TX: Hi! I'm a really big fan of your work -- especially your Spenser novels. In fact, I named my oldest daughter after one of your minor characters, Caitlin Martinelli. First, are you planning any more collaborations with your wife, Joan? Second, how far in the future do you plan your novels? I mean, while writing HUSH MONEY, were you planning plot lines for future Spenser novels or did you just go where the story took you? Keep up the great work!
Robert B Parker: Joan and I collaborate on all things dealing with film; she is more of a co-worker with A&E, but the books I write myself and we don't collaborate. I don't plan ahead; I don't even know what is going to happen in the book I am working on. I don't think of the next one.
Corby from Sudbury, MA: Are they currently filming SMALL VICES? Have you seen the script? What do you think?
Robert B Parker: I wrote the script for SMALL VICES. We have finished filming and are in post-production.
Andrew from California: What was the last book you liked? What about movie?
Robert B Parker: Last movie was "Shane." I like Dutch Leonard's books. I just read CUBA LIBRE. He is a great writer.
Dianne from Hermitage, TN: Could you please tell us more about your new female P.I., Sunny Randall?
Robert B Parker: A little more, I guess. She is the daughter of a policeman; she was married to, and now divorced from, a mobster; she is going to school at night to get a degree in fine arts; and she is the proud owner of a bull terrier named Rosie.
John Strnad from Aurora, IL: I was in Oak Brook at your last book signing. Are you planning any more book signings in the area? I am a big Spenser fan, but getting hooked on Jesse Stone. Great work. How will you manage to keep the characters and plots separate with a third series?
Robert B Parker: I won't be in the Chicago area for this book. I am not sure about the fall. I will be as close as Cleveland. Practive, practice....
Nick from State College: There are certainly strong similarities between you and Spenser. I think I remember reading that his relationship with Susan even has some strong similarities to your relationship with Joan. How do you decide what of yourself to give to Spenser, and what to keep?
Robert B Parker: A perfectly good question, but I have no idea. I guess I give him the best of me, and the worst of me I just shut up about.
Brandon from Hartford, CT: Were the similarities between this book and THE GODWULF MANUSCRIPT intentional? Did you do this purposely to commemorate 25 years since we were first introduced to Spenser?
Robert B Parker: It was not intentional.
Elke from New York City: What do you have planned for New Year's Eve 1999?
Robert B Parker: I plan to spend it with Joan.
Jeff from Seattle: Were it not for the magic of fiction, Spenser would now be, what, in his 60s? Are you ever going to let the guy retire?
Robert B Parker: I am too old to go to work.
Steve Simpson from Los Angeles: If you were a casting director, what actor would be your ideal Spenser? What about Hawk?
Robert B Parker: Check out SMALL VICES in June on A&E.
Paul from New York: How is Pearl doing? Does she get mad when you leave home and go on lengthy book tours?
Robert B Parker: She is home with her mommy, and she may miss me but she has her couch.
Erin from Home: How do you keep up with such a strenuous writing schedule? I recently saw Patricia Cornwell in an interview, and she has a staff of eight people to help her out with life's little details. Are you just disciplined and super-organized?
Robert B Parker: [laughs] I don't know -- I don't have anything else to do. Why one would need a staff of eight people, I have no idea.
Corinne from Boston: K. C. Roth is a great character. Did you know a woman like her? Is she based on any particularly "crafty" woman from your past? What can you tell me about her inspiration? Thanks!
Robert B Parker: At one time or another I have know women like K. C., yes. That is as far as I am going with that.
John from East Village: Do you have a favorite weapon? Do you frequent a shooting range?
Robert B Parker: I like revolvers because they don't jam and they are not complicated, and I figure if you need more than six rounds you are probably in some trouble anyway. No, I don't go to a shooting range. I have a place in the country with acres of land if I want to shoot.
Moderator: It's always a pleasure to chat with you, Robert Parker. Best of luck with HUSH MONEY and we look forward to your next book. Any final words for your many online fans?
Robert B Parker: It was a pleasure chatting tonight. Read the book. Goodnight.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I like Parkers style of writing. Not alot of adjectives.
Parker captures the politically correct agenda of the American university perfectly--the demonization of everything European, the 'advancement' of minority groups and opinions, homosexuality, feminism, and their desire to instill their students with those values. The mysteries of why an otherwise qualified professor was denied tenure and whether a young student jumped or was pushed from a window stand out on their own. I could not grasp the significance of the second mystery, that of the adulterous 'friend' of Susan Silverman and who is stalking her. This story was superfluous and left many questions unanswered...like how a psychiatrist like Susan could have considered such a neurotic, manipulative, backstabbing woman her 'friend'. Like another reviewer, I, too, would like to see less of Susan. I don't buy Spenser novels to read about his romantic life. However, this is otherwise a highly reccommended read as I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Spenser novels are always engrossing and entertaining. Through this enduring character, Parker continues to define and refine the private detective mystery genre. HUSH MONEY is as good as it gets.
Parker captures quite well the atmosphere of most academic departments -- all the suspicions, back biting, PC and such. His insights show he's been there, done that. Some of his asides -- e.g., about talking to zealots -- are superb. He cleverly balances anti- and pro-PC opinions! And the story is quite good, though not exceptional, too.
I turn to Robert Parker's books when I want a fast, fun read. They don't so much "read" as talk, and it''s fun eavesdropping. This one did not disappoint. The story seemed to be largely about pretension in different settings, and it had an especially satisfying ending, with all the phonies getting their appropriate comeuppences.
A great author like Parker can tease interest in the first couple of pages and that’s what happened to me here. Spenser is working on two pro-bono cases and they weave in and out of each other in a style that keeps the novel moving at a thoroughly enjoyable pace. One of the cases involves an academic mystery that quickly gets seedy and violent. The other involves a stalker that has an eerie twist that really ups the tension. Spenser handles everything with his normal wit and nearly superhuman calm and we get great insight into Hawk as well. If you like Spenser novels this one is well worth your time.
Very much a pleasure to read, thrilling, funny what you expect in a Spencer novel.
PLOT OR PREMISE: Spenser has two cases, one from Hawk and one from Susan. Hawk wants him to help a black college professor who was refused tenure on the basis of rumours that he was gay, he had an illicit affair with a student, and the student committed suicide as a result of a broken heart. Susan wants him to help a friend who claims she is being stalked. . WHAT I LIKED: The plot surrounding the black college professor is a typical Spenser novel -- take a case for no pay, find there is something weird, start investigating, push some buttons, find out suspect number 1 is connected, and get a visit from some heavies. However, the handling of discrimination issues based on sexual orientation or colour of skin are well done, and that alone raises the story above a typical novel. Of course, the writing is first-rate, as Parker's work always is, and the story proceeds at a fast clip, with enough twists and turns to make it interesting. . WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The second case involving Susan's friend is ridiculous. Susan is a first class shrink -- yet she apparently is surprised when she finds out that the friend has attached herself to Spenser as her white knight coming to save her, whether he wants to be rewarded or not. Not well handled by Spenser's character or Susan, and doesn't fit either's characters background in previous novels, and just rings false with each development. Mind you, the resolution of the problem by Susan is first-rate. It just takes a long time to get there. . BOTTOM-LINE: First rate solid story . DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I was not personal friends with the author, nor did I follow him on social media.
I really wish Parker would use Susan much less. I am not fond of the constant sex between Susan & Spencer. Then I guess I don't have to buy them if I don't like them. I do like the Spencer books except for that. The characters are good, the wise cracks are great. Spencer takes two cases at once. One for Hawk and one for Susan. Susan's friend is being stalked and Spencer is asked to find out who and get it stopped. He does but then the friend ends up being in love with Spencer, or at least she thinks she is. Susan finally takes care of her. Hawk has a friend who does not get tenure at the school where he teaches because the tenure committee is told that a young man committed suicide because of a sexual relationship with the teacher. Spencer and Hawk get to use fist and guns to get this solved. The two cases going on at the same time are a little confusing for a single mind like mine. If you have read Spencer in the past and like him I guess you will like this one too.