Chasing the Bear: A Young Spenser Novel Paperback – Mar 18 2010
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About the Author
Robert B. Parker lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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The characters are fresh, but if you are expecting to see a young Hawk, or Quirk or Belson or Susan Silverman, you will be disappointed. Yet for a fourteen year old to read Chasing the Bear and leap to The Godwulf Manuscript is a pretty big leap. Hopefully, there will be a few more "Young Spenser" books dealing with his move to Boston, his time in the Army and his adventures with the staties before he became a private license.
I highly recommend this book and have purchased a copy of this book for my godson. Then its over to Edenville Owls and The Boxer and the Spy. One last thing, perhaps the vocabulary isn't as intense as a regular Spenser novel, but Robert B.Parker honors his audience by not talking down to them. No surprise there.
No, it's not Robert Parker's take on Forest Gump. It's his attempt to explain Spenser the man by looking at Spenser the boy. Susan asks questions, Spenser answers them and we cut to the past to see Spenser being raised by his father and two uncles. We are shown an important incident from Spenser's boyhood and then we jump back to the park bench. Susan analyzes/interprets what we've just witnessed. There is some banter and then we're back in the past.
This is the structure of the novel and at times I wanted more. I really enjoyed those leaps back in time and I would have appreciated more detail and less park bench banter. Some of these flashbacks are vignettes. The missing details are filled in during the park bench scenes. I would have liked these vignettes to be expanded so that there would be no need to add missing details during the Spenser and Susan bits.
The glimpses we get of Spenser as a 14 year old boy - dealing with an alcoholic man who has kidnapped his daughter and with a race-based attack on a fellow student - are classic Spenser. He does what he does because he has no other choice. His code (taught to him by his three fathers) demands that he do what's right, even if he isn't exactly sure just what is right.
If the book has a flaw, it's that too much time is spent on that park bench. I really wanted more detail during the flashbacks. The park bench analysis seemed to interrupt the natural flow of the story. But I have to add that it didn't slow the story down by much. I read this book on my Kindle in under an hour and it met my all-time test for an engrossing work of fiction. When I reached the end of a chapter, I looked up and saw that I had missed my bus stop. Any book that makes me forget where I am gets an above average rating. With less park bench banter, I'd have given it five stars.
The ending of this book is also quite touching. I think it illustrates why I don't tire of Spenser and Susan (even when they annoy me - I mean, how many times are we going to be told how small a bite Susan takes during a meal?) and why I'm looking forward to more adventures of the early Spenser.
If you like Spenser, you'll probably like this book. If you've never read his tales before, you may want to pick up a few early novels and then come back to this after you've been hooked.
There are a couple of spots where hyphens have been left in words so they are spelled oddly when the text reflows. It's a very minor annoyance.
First of all when I opened the book and saw the usual 1 1/2 line spacing and extra-wide margins I felt cheated. This tactic of fattening up a book to make it look more substantial than it is is extremely annoying. Secondly, this product is not a novel at all. It is simply a set of a few reminiscences that could have easily been folded into a regular Spenser novel. In fact two of the reminiscences had already been told in previous Spenser novels: the story of the bear and the story of how his father and his uncles disciplined a group of men who had harrassed young Spenser. There is no beginning, middle and end to this "novel". There is no conflict, there is no resolution, it is simple preachy. Parker fans have a right to expect something better from him. If he's at all concerned about his legacy he needs to continue to give us new material with each new publication and when he can no longer do so he should stop while his status as a best-selling author (with cause)is still intact. I'm still planning to read the next one which I believe is due out in October but I'm not going to buy any more of his books without previewing them through library copies first.
The problem I have with this book is that it was advertised as written for a young adult audience, but was really written like a Spenser memoir. As a middle school teacher I feel that this book was not as good as "The Boxer and the Spy". As a Spenser nover it was a good short story, as a young adult story I feel that a teenager who did not know the history of Spenser would not get the point of why the two old people are talking about what is suposed to be a story about a 14 year old boy. It was good, but not a "young adult" story. Hopefully the future young Spenser novels will have less "Professional Spenser" and more "Young Spenser".
This one is marketed as a YA book but I can't see how a teen could pick this up and know what is really happening, the creation of boy to man, without having read many previous Spencer books, or even seen the TV series or A&E movies. This is more a book for hardcore Spencer fans to get a kick out of a young Spencer tale, the way Hollywood gives us Young Indiana Jones or young Sherlock Holmes.
In Parker usual spare, Hemingway-esque prose, he uses a badly-chosen frame: it opens with Spencer and Susan sitting on a park bench talking about his childhood experiences that made Spencer a manly, moral private eye. The chapters jump back and forth from present to pas, which is jarring and just bad storytelling. Any editor would have told the writer to take out the present stuff; but the publisher knows that Parker books will sell no matter what.
This would have been a better story if Parker had just kept to the young Spencer details, and maybe introduced Susan at the end, that it was all him telling her this.
Still, this is a good read, and a fast one -- the book is barely 25,000 words long. It contains all the heroic, moral elements of any Spencer PI yarn: coming to the gallant aid of women in distress, fighting social injustice, fighting racial inequality.
First, a very young Spencer gets bullied by some drunks so his father and brothers go kick their asses and then teach Spencer how to box (Spencer later becomes a pro boxer in the early books) and defend himself. Spencer has no mother, she died before he could remember her; he's being raised by his tough guy no nonsense dad and his mother's two brothers, his uncles, also tough guys.
At fourteen, Spencer befriends a girl, Jeannie, who has alcoholic parents -- her mother is a floozy and her dad is hunter/drinker/crazy guy who steals Jeannine over custody issues. Kidnaps her. Beats her. There's a hint of some molestation too, but like Hemingway, it's between the lines.
Spencer decides to rescue her and winds up killing the drunk father in a woods battle. Like many Spencer books, the moral justice outweighs the crime and Spencer never gets charged for murder (in other books, Spencer sometimes does kill people so the better of society).
Next, Spencer comes to the aid of a young Hispanic kid who is getting beaten up by racist kids. Jeanine tells the kid Spencer will help -- thus, Spencer is "hired" as a bodyguard problem solver as he later is as an adult.
I had fun reading this, despite the structure flaws, only because I'm a Spencer fan.
I'm saddened that Parker died not too long after this book hit the streets.