The creator of Spenser just couldn't seem to keep his paws off the past .
His occasional forays into the past, including his fresh stab at the legend of Wyatt Earp (2001's Gunman's Rhapsody) and his period-piece dabblings with Chandler's Marlowe (Poodle Springs and Perchance To Dream) had been generally well-received by fans and even, begrudgingly, by critics.
In 2004, he took another whack at it, journeying back to 1947 with Double Play, a taut thriller about former boxer and wounded World War II vet named JOSEPH BURKE hired by the Brooklyn Dodgers to protect Jackie Robinson, who's just been brought up from the Montreal Royals farm team to break major league baseball's colour barrier. Parker offers a deftly drawn but sensitive portrait of a bygone era, and gives us an intriguing, compelling character in Burke, a survivor of both Guadacanal and a post-war busted marriage who just doesn't give much of a damn about anything anymore, but is slowly learning that maybe, just maybe, there are still things worth fighting for.
Even better, Parker offered a glimpse into his own past, mixing his storytelling with apparently firsthand reminiscences (in chapters conveniently titled "Bobby") of growing up in Boston as a devoted Dodgers fan, a move that, according to Publisher's Weekly, "adds resonance and a sense of wonder to the taut narrative."
I've read it myself, and I've got to agree -- this was one fine book, a rich emotional page-turner that echoes long after you put it down, perhaps Parker's best book in years. But of course, because it was Parker and he wrote so damn well and made it look so damn easy it didn't get half the critical attention it deserved.
A sadly overlooked gem well worth looking for.
ALSO OF INTEREST
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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