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In appreciation of Robert B. Parker, creator of "Spenser for Hire"

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Some of us have known Robert B. Parker almost as long as we could read. I remember first picking up a "Spenser" novel in 1979, when I was 21 and had just moved to Boston straight out of college. By the time I put that book down (I remember that I turned the last page while sitting in a North End cafe), I had somehow become a Bostonian.

Parker was a prolific writer who churned out more than 60 books in his lifetime, working in genres including Westerns and young adult novels. But it was as a crafter of detective fiction that Parker will be best and most fondly remembered, and most particularly for his 37 novels starring Spenser, the tough but lovable Boston private detective whose name was spelled like that of the poet.

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Spenser was a former boxer. He traveled light and talked tough. But he loved his city, the Red Sox, his girl (psychiatrist Susan Silverman), and his running buddy (Hawk, an equally tough and casually beguiling fellow crime-fighter).

Parker himself started life as an academic. He wrote a PhD thesis on detective fiction and worked as a college professor before he discovered his true vocation as a novelist.

Two more of his books, "Split Image" and "Blue-Eyed Devil," are scheduled for publication this year. But last year's release, "The Professional," will now be the final word on Spenser.

Fittingly perhaps, Parker, who spent so much of his life shaping books, is reported to have died sitting at his desk in his study in Cambridge, Mass.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor’s book editor. You can follow her on Twitter at