I met Robert Parker exactly once.
It was under the best possible circumstances, a fundraiser for the Alice Hoffman Breast Health Center at Mount Auburn hospital. And the author who made Spenser for HIre a household word demonstrated the personal trait for which he was best-known, his devotion to his wife, Joan -- a breast cancer survivor. A private and humble guy, according to his best friend (my own great friend, the novelist Gary Braver) that night Parker looked high up into the seats and offered an air kiss and an imaginary rose to his wife.
He was a classy guy. He died, not only with his boots on, but at his computer. The world will feel keenly his loss.
I am personally sorry that I never knew him better.
I met Erich Segal exactly once, exactly once.
He was charming and kind, a quicksilver fella with a keen eye and a keen wit.
Segal also died in the past couple of days, as well. The Yale professor best known for the utterly charmig weepy 'Love Story,' he suffered for many years from Parkinson's disease.
The New York Times lionized Bob Parker and dissed Erich Segal, saying none of his books had made the Times bestseller list. ('Love Story' was on the list for more than a year in the 70s), carefully pointing out that when his book was nominated for a National Book Award, the committee unanimously threatened to walk if it wasn't removed from consideration. It was.
That kind of crap makes me ashamed for my colleagues in the news business.
It was not only the New York Times that put Erich Segal down. Another obit for Erich Segal said, "While he was no Flaubert ..."
In fact, that was exactly what he was. Madame Bovary was a weeper, too -- based on a newspaper story Flaubert read and obsessed over, and it pulled out every emotional stop there was.
Both of these folks (toward me at least) were kindly, were gents, were men of letters who knew how to do what they did exceedingly well.
Spenser is a character that is part of the American mindset. But so is Jennifer, the baker's doomed and dark-eyed daughter.
If there is an afterlife, I'm sure the creators will greet each other with the kindness and grace our culture withheld from one of them -- by good people of letters.
Causes Jacquelyn Mitchard Supports
National MS Society, Women Against MS, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, One Writer's Place