Friday, June 26, 2009

Chasing the Bear

Chasing the Bear: A Young Spenser Novel

BookPage Notable Title
For almost 40 years, Parker's inimitable private investigator Spenser has been solving cases and selling millions of books worldwide. Now, for the first time, fans can 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.

A detective grows up
Review by James Neal Webb

Robert B. Parker's literary protagonist and alter ego, the Boston private investigator Spenser, is a man many readers would like to emulate. He's brave, witty, strong and smart, with a streak of impregnable integrity and a stubborn determination to do the Right Thing. He's also a wise-cracking detective who always seems to be up to his neck in trouble. Through almost 40 novels, Parker has given us glimpses of Spenser's past, but in his newest novel, written for teens, the details of his boyhood are fleshed out. Chasing the Bear: A Young Spenser Novel, takes us back to an incident that molds the boy Spenser into the man he would become.

Spenser (as in the adult novels, no first name is mentioned) is a teenager growing up in Laramie, Wyoming, being raised by his father Sam, and his two uncles, Patrick and Cash. As you might imagine, an all-male household means a lot of testosterone-influenced activities, including boxing and hunting, so Spenser is a tough kid who knows how to defend himself. What you might not expect is that the three men try to teach their young kin as best they can by exposing him to the classics (like Shakespeare and Milton) and by teaching him to always try to do what's right. These lessons come into play when Jeannie Haden, a friend from school, is taken upriver against her will by her abusive, alcoholic father, and Spenser has no choice but to follow them in a small, rickety skiff. The choices he makes in trying to rescue Jeannie will have repercussions both in the short term and for the rest of his life. As a result of his adventure, he learns a valuable lesson in dealing with both sides of the law; he is reluctantly drawn into a school racial dispute; and Jeannie (and her mother) give him an unexpected lesson in interacting with the opposite sex. In the process we watch as the adult Spenser takes shape.

Chasing the Bear will appeal to teen readers in much the same way the Spenser mysteries appeal to adults. Spenser's wit, strength, and moral rectitude serve as a stand-in for the way we want ourselves to be. He's the quintessential hero, and we all need a hero, no matter what our age.