Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Parkers

I have no stories today, no embellished historical drama, no flights of fancy, no morality plays. There are times when one has to escape from their flittering mind for a moment and assess the reality of the moment. Sometimes it takes an event or a well-placed word to collapse the fancy into the fact.
Yesterday while watching my pre-work news and weather program on TV, the announcement was made that Fess Parker died. I think they said he was 85 years old.
For those of you that are almost mature like me, and those of you that have reached maturity will probably know who Fess Parker is. I don’t have a lot to say about Mr. Parker for I only knew him as a child for his portrayal of Davy Crocket on television.
“Daveee, Davy Crocket
King of the wild frontier.”
Fess’ Davy was handsome and gentle and would rarely kill people with his trusted musket and was more of a mediator with warring Injuns and had a pretty wife and lived in a log cabin and had a coon skin cap and always had adventures which had a moral to them. As a ten year old, I thought he was the best actor in whatever that place was that actors came from.
“Born on a mountain top in Tennessee
Greenest state in the Land of the Free
Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree
Kilt him a b'ar when he was only three.
Daveee, Davy Crockett.King of the wild frontier!”
Fess Parker’s Davy Crocket was courageous, plain spoken, kind and tolerant, and resolute in what was right. This was a time when we needed a hero and he fit the part perfectly. I’ll not say he became a model for my life but he should have. His motto has always stuck with me: ‘Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.’
I’m just not sure how to handle the fact that Davy…I mean Fess, died.
Which brings me to another unrelated Parker.
Many of you, even those not-quite-reaching-almost-maturity of under 60 years of age, might have heard of Robert G. Parker. He was a very popular author who entertained zillions of readers who did not require their authors be sophisticated, erudite, soul-enriching and full of passionate prose. He wrote 300 page novels that one grabs off the end table while you are propped up in bed preparing for sleep.
I have always envisioned Mr. Parker wandering around his house bored and then would suddenly say to himself, “I’ll write another book” and wanders over to his computer and spits out another terse, quick-witted Spencer book and hits the send button on his computer to fire it off to his publisher who would dare not publish it because it would be an instant best-seller just like his other 36 books. The reason I like this image is that I am jealous of it.
The hero of most of Parker’s books was Spencer, a tough softie-inside Private Detective that cooks well and knows his wines and has a love relationship with psychiatrist Dr. Susan Silverman. Parker’s books are all about dialogue, or rather the lack of very much dialogue. I think I have laughed every time I have read one of his books…laughed at the dialogue. It is indeed terse and witty and the reader is left to fill in the blanks.
Lately Mr. Parker switched gears to write of a troubled small town Police Chief name Jesse Stone. They tried, unsuccessfully I think, tried to make TV movies out of these books starring Tom Selleck. Like everything else that Mr. Parker wrote, his books were instant best-sellers and routinely hit the Bestseller Lists.
Robert B. Parker died last January sitting at his computer whipping out another novel. I liked him. Now I have no more of his books to look forward to.   


  1. My Aunt Jean was from Ft. Worth, and knew Fess Parker and his family! I can't ask her any questions about him, though, as she died decades ago. I'm of the age to remember him, and still sing the song to my grandkids!

  2. Always learning something new from you, Jerry.:)
    Enjoyed it.

  3. I certainly remember Davy Crocket...and didn't Fess Parker play Daneil Boone later on? And Robert Rarker...I have read all of his books, Spencer and all the others. You are so right, they are such an easy, fun read. I will miss having new ones come out.

  4. I did know about Fess Parker...thanks to my dad (who sang "Daveee, Davy Crockett" whenever ol' Fess came up in conversation; Mom always sang the "kilt him a b'ar" part). I knew next to nothing about the man or the shows he starred in, though. After reading this...well, Parker's Crockett sounds like MY ideal hero. The "be sure you're right" thing sounds not only wise but universally applicable. And I never would've known...

    I had no idea who Robert G. Parker was. Hadn't even heard of him. Like Laura said, always learning something new over here. A fitting eulogy for two memorable and exemplary men, good sir. Well struck.

  5. Thanks for the earworm. I'll be "born on a mountaintop in Tennessee" for days now.

  6. I loved the Davy Crockett Show! Also loved him in Old Yeller!

    Thanks for the memories, but now that song is going to be stuck in my head all day!

  7. I loved Robert Parker. I listen to his books on disc in my car and I always laugh at his dry sense of humor. My kind of bad he has passed away, but he did so doing something he loved. We should all be so lucky.

    Lindsey Petersen

  8. I’m sorry that somehow I missed hearing of Parker’s passing. That might have been the end of an era. I too enjoyed Spenser and even thought the TV version was good. I still picture the program opening with Spenser rowing on the Charles River (or supposedly it was Spenser – I doubt Robert Urich was ever actually on the river.). I liked Jesse Stone too. Perhaps I identified with him and his booze problem. I’ve often wished I could find more than one of the Stone Cold episodes.
    End of an era – John. D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer and of course, Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade. Too bad. How does it go? “We shall never see them pass his way again.” or something like that.

  9. Paul (the Old Prof) came along and spelled Robert Parker's 'Spenser' correctly. My wife, a devout Parker fan didn't even catch it. Yes, it is Spenser, not Spencer.

  10. You seem like a good egg Jerry, Ima gonna stick with you

  11. What a sad post. I am sorry that two of your heroes died. Perhaps you should start turning out novels in the vein of the latter Parker. I'm sure you'd be good at it--even if you don't spit them out quite as rapidly as Robert did.

  12. I have an award waiting for you, come by and get it.

  13. Oh, this is too sad! It's going to sound totally cliche, but I'm glad Parker died doing what he loves to do. If you're gonna go, I suppose there are worse ways...

  14. Wow. I'm with Kathryn, what a way to go, if you're a writer! As a former bookseller, I'm well aquainted with Robert Parker's books. They were all huge sellers! I've never read one before, but may have to think about it now, thanks to your glowing review. I saw reruns of Davy Crockett when I was little! I wish our heroes nowdays could be so clear cut.


  15. Beautifully written. I am glad you are here in the blogosphere, Jerry.


  16. Ahhh, thank you for that soundly satisfying eulogy for Davey, um, Fess. I got the news via a Facebook post the day he died and had a sad moment for an old hero's passing. You remember much more than I do, wasn't Mingo his sidekick? Or was he Daniel Boone's?

    I can't believe I never read a Parker novel, I must hasten out to find one.