Good gun read: Spenser


July 28, 2005, 01:14 PM
Hey all thought i'd put out a shout out for these underrated books by Robert Parker. Though his characters are liberal they realize there's a need for guns. Best detective fiction that I've read.

His characters have weapons very fitting of their personalities. The main character Spenser is very much a tool in a toolbox guy.
He carries:
-a S&W .38 snub, which his friends make fun of as being ineffective and his reply is that he knows he'll be carrying it and he's comfortable with it.
-When he knows people are after him he'll carry his Browning hi-power too.
-A four inch S&W .357 is his desk gun/"negotiating tool". He often talks about the beauty of the bluing and walnut grips.
-A shotgun, i've seen ithica and smith and wesson, for house clearing and such.
-When he knows there's range involved he'll grab his .45 Winchester lever action (passed down through the family).

Those are just some I can remember off hand. His thug buddies also have guns fitting their style. Anybody remember any other guns?

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July 28, 2005, 01:42 PM
Just skip all chapters featuring his awful, awful girlfriend, Susan.

I remember one book where the baddie sticks a gun in his face and Spenser cracks, "Wow, a Sig Sauer, just like the cops are getting!"

July 28, 2005, 01:44 PM
Yeah but he has to cock his high power before he shoots anyone?????????? Guess He's not man enough to carry cocked and locked. :D

July 28, 2005, 01:45 PM
In the early books, while interior monologing about his Python (.357) he states (two different books):

"I have it in case I'm attacked by a finback whale."

"It's what I carry if I think I'm going up against a polar bear."

<quoting from memory of years ago>

I actually use the "finback whale" line when people ask why I need a gun with so much power. :D

In the early books he carried hammer down on an empty chamber with his Chief's yet still got 5 shots. :scrutiny:

Parker may have updated a bit but he's in no way a good "gun author". He just uses what he personally may or may not have handled or read about.

July 28, 2005, 02:52 PM
True, most of Parker's gun lines are more for wit than practicality. Spenser frequently cocks or chambers a round more for dramactic effect than anything. I've also noticed many times his guns will be chambered in .9mm or .12 gauge. Hopefully this is more of an editing problem than Parker's lack of knowledge. Just remembered that Parker's Gray Man character used a .458 magnum rifle, nice choice for an eclectic hitman.

Jim K
July 28, 2005, 03:09 PM
Some writers do know something about guns, but most get their information from some general book like Gun Digest. Then some don't want (for some reason) to use the names of real gun makers (remember the "Marley" in the Nero Wolfe books?). The book readers show themselves by using the correct name and caliber but goof on gun terms. Thus we read, "I looked down the nozzle of the .38 caliber Smith and Wesson as the robber pulled the clicker thing back."


July 28, 2005, 05:39 PM
Elmer Keith, in his book "Sixguns" relates how in the late '20's Zane Grey and his entourage came to visit at Elmer's ranch. They came to study the use of guns and hunting for use in Grey's novels. Most brought lever guns. They were astounded how Elmer could, with his .44 Special S&W Triple Lock, land four out of six shots on a rock, two foot by three at two hundred yards when they couldn't come close with their rifles. Zane took lots of notes and used them in his western novel, "Thunder Mountain."

July 28, 2005, 08:37 PM
I'll have to see if I can find "Thunder Mountain" at the Library. I don't recall ever reading that one.

I thought I'd read all of his stuff, just like I read all of Louis L'Amour's books. Yet I still occasionally run onto one in some used book store that I don't have.

Too danged hot to do anything outdoors, and reading doesn't raise the temperature in the house. Unless, of course, I happen to read a newspaper. :fire:

Standing Wolf
July 28, 2005, 09:26 PM
Parker has relieved himself of some exceedingly snide remarks about ordinary American citizens owning guns in some of his books.

Just skip all chapters featuring his awful, awful girlfriend, Susan.

Actually, the girl friend and assorted dogs are usually smarter than Spenser.

July 28, 2005, 10:39 PM
I was always sort of partial to Mickey Spillane/Mike Hammer

July 29, 2005, 12:44 AM
Read the Spenser books from "The Godwulf Manuscript" up to "The Widening Gyre". After "Gyre", Parker started phoning them in.

uke: The .458 Win. Mag. always cracked me up, too; especially when the Grey man finally scores with a .22!!

If you haven't read the Elvis Cole novels by Robert Crais, you're missing some darn good reads, as well as several of the books by Stephen Hunter featuring Earl or Bob Lee Swagger ("Time to Hunt" is one of the best twisting mysteries I've ever read!)


July 29, 2005, 07:52 AM
....What's with all these guys carrying with the hammer down? I never did get that. Read White Jazz (James Ellroy) last week, and our hero carried hiw 1911 hammer down. It's sad, really, knowing what we do about guns and letting it get in the way of an otherwise awesome novel. I'm holding my breath for John Ross's sequel to Unintended Consequences.

July 29, 2005, 08:53 AM
No secret that I'm a great admirer of the old Matt Helm series by Donald Hamilton. Protagonist usually carries a .38 snub (whatever was issued and/or passed to him when he reached his area of operation), and a personally owned (and non-departmental-approved) lockblade pocketknife. He was also a trained sharshooter, favoring heavy barreled magnum bolt guns.

Hamilton was an avid shooter & hunter; his characters were equipped with realistic equipment, used it realistically, and his character,Helm, was a great supporter of the 2nd Amendment!

July 29, 2005, 08:58 AM
I like the books by Parker, not only the Spenser series but also the "Paradise" and "Family" books.

For good gun reading, you've got to pick up anything by Stephen Hunter.

July 29, 2005, 09:21 AM
I've read all the Spenser books and can only second the comments made about the girlfriend Susan and Pearl the wonder dog. Parker spends too much time repeatedly telling us how beautiful Susan is and the sexually charged dialog between she and Spenser get downright boring.

Like the TV series, the books are better when there is less Susan and more Hawk. In the recent books Hawk has carried a .44 mag but on the TV show he carried a Python similar to this one:

All of the Stephen Hunter books are great.

Currently I'm re-reading Vince Flynn's books--beautiful women, CIA operatives, SEALS, lotsa weapons--what's not to love!?!?!?

July 29, 2005, 11:14 AM
She and Susan are probably about 65 (he fought in Korea), I find the sexual images disturbing.

Like most writers, they thrown is some techy gun stuff that is wrong a great deal of the time.

I do like the books and he does also throw in some nice gourmet touches.

Susan as goddes and Hawk as fighting superman does get boring. So you had a weird life Hawk, get over it and stop being such an ... in relationships.

July 29, 2005, 12:10 PM
One of the things that irritates the crap out of me is the way Parker degraded Vinnie Morris. In the early books, he was erudite, articulate, well-dressed & dangerous. In the last several all he can do is stand around and say things like, "Hey, what do I know? I'm just a f-ing shooter-I f-ing shoot people."

As far as Susan goes, keep in mind that that she is based on Robert Parker's real-life wife, Joan, whom he keeps on a pedestal. In the book series, when Spenser & Susan were separated, it was because Parker & Joan were separated in real-life.

Can't recall the name of his last Spenser book, but it was the best he'd done in a while, IMNTBHO, but still not up to par with the earlier books I listed. Thought that "Havana" by Stephen Hunter was phoned in too. Not up to snuff for an Earl Swagger book.


July 29, 2005, 12:39 PM
Sorry for the drift, but In which one did the Gray Man get him? Can't remember reading that one, and want to. I'd like to read the description of the use of the .458.

Now, back to the regularly scheduled thread......

July 29, 2005, 01:14 PM

"Small Vices", also made into one of those interestingly disappointing A&E movies with Joe Mantegna and Marcia Gay Hardin.

July 29, 2005, 01:30 PM
IMHO - they have never cast Spenser correctly. Urich was too pretty boy and Joe was a shrimp.

July 29, 2005, 01:32 PM
Cold Service is the latest. Sort've a flip on Small Vices--Hawk gets shot and Spenser helps him get his revenge.

July 29, 2005, 02:46 PM
Good book but I thought they overplayed the mystic Hawk tough guy who will form no relationships and ditches a good woman so he can walk alone bit.

Spense and Susan yak about this because of Hawk's background. In reality, ha ha, Hawk is very damaged and Susan should be trying to fix his nutty bean or get someone else to do it, rather than buying into the lone gunman crap.

July 29, 2005, 05:24 PM
I've enjoyed the books, esp Hawk, and don't know enough to rule on his gun knowledge, but his cooking times are suspect to me. I cook all lteh meals in this house, and rather well, if I do say so myself. Also, the dedications of the books are not always to his wife. Friction?

July 30, 2005, 12:34 PM
while i have enjoyed spenser..the newer books seem like just a rehash of the early ones...and the energy of the story is missing

elmore leonard has never disappointed me...and as far as i remember his "gun" usage has been accurate..if there is anyone writing "urban crime novels" better..i have not read them..


July 30, 2005, 01:06 PM
It does seem that the later Spenser books seem too formulaic, like Parker is just writing on automatic pilot. I really loved the first several books in the series.

stephen Hunter's books on Bob Lee swagger are great. Especially the first one.

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