Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Surrogate" by Robert B. Parker

Available in New Crimes 3, ed. Maxim Jakubowski, Carroll and Graf, 1992.

This 1982 Spenser short is one of Parker's only serious attempts at the form. Brenda Loring, who dated Spenser before he committed to Susan Silverman, visits Spenser's office saying she's been raped by the same intruder twice in two weeks.

Not much mystery here. Brenda suspects from the outset that her impotent ex-husband hired the man to commit rape by proxy. Spenser browbeats Brenda's ex into revealing the man's name. Then Hawk rounds up the man and brings him to Brenda's house for a confrontation.

I didn't quite believe the characters other than Spenser and Hawk. The dialogue between Brenda and her ex seemed pretty tame considering his crime. (She calls him "weird," "a creepy bastard," "sick.") Maybe this was fiery for fiction in 1982.

Parker initially refused Playboy's request for a story, claiming he didn't write short stories. He later relented, producing "Surrogate," and Playboy rejected it for rape content deemed unsuitable for its readership.

Parker says he doesn't have the knack for short stories. While this one isn't essential reading, it offers a glimpse of Spenser and Hawk's darker sides, too long missing from the novels.

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