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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

HARDBOILED CORNER: THE JUDAS GOAT!

HARDBOILED CORNER: THE JUDAS GOAT!

ROBERT B. PARKER

Parker can write the ass off just about anyone. While he has his detractors, for me his prose always goes down smooth. A new Parker book always goes to the top of my To Be Read pile, most often even replacing anything else I am currently reading.

Over the past few months I’ve been Kindling Parker’s Spenser novels in order and enjoying the experience immensely. I’m currently reading The Judas Goat and remembering why it was a standout in the series for me.

While my favorite Spenser novel is Early Autumn, as it encompasses all of the themes Parker likes to explore, The Judas Goat is special because it is a different type of book than all the others in the canon. It is Parker writing an early Mack Boland: Executioner novel hidden behind the usual patina of Parker’s literate, low brow/high brow storytelling.

I have no idea if Parker took this approach intentionally, or if the book took on a life of its own because of the storyline – Spenser and Hawk track down the terrorists who callously killed the family of a millionaire and callously kill the terrorists in inventive ways because Spenser and Hawk are the unquestioned agents of G.O.O.D.

Now, I have no problem with this scenario. The Judas Goat is a great read, however, it is also a tipping point for the series. Susan Silverman has not yet morphed into the nagging bitch of the next few novels, nor is she the up-on-a-pedestal fantasy of the last books in the series. However, it is the full blown entry onto the pages by Hawk which marks The Judas Goat.

While Hawk first appeared in the previous Spenser novel, Promised Land, it is in The Judas Goat where Spenser and Hawk’s bromance begins to gel into one of the great partnerships in fiction. I’ve long wanted Parker to give us a Hawk novel, one in which Hawk takes center stage and his dubious morality is held up to the light and examined – Hawk as an extension of Hawk, not an extension of Spenser, or as in the later novels, Susan Silverman’s lap dog. Alas, with Parker’s passing, that novel will never be written.

The Judas Goat is not the best place to jump into the Spenser series, but it is a novel which gives fans of the series a look at a different direction – a road less travelled.

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