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Sure, Spenser's for hire, but not Robert B. Parker

Robert B. Parker Parker: I'd say the first book to break out was "Looking for Rachel Wallace" (1980). The first best-seller was "Valediction" (1984). I judge success two ways: Is it good in my judgment (I don't read reviews) and do I make money with it? The two standards are not incompatible, but neither are they inevitable. If the book doesn't make any money, however, the impact on my wife and children is greater than it is if the book fails artistically. Until I had money to invest, I had no investment plan. Now I do. My accountant supervises a couple of different investment procedures for me. I have made money buying (sometimes rehabbing) and selling homes. But basically I let other people invest it for me.

Bankrate: Spenser always has a healthy suspicion of wealth and the wealthy in your books, a trend that continues (and rightly so) in your new one, "Bad Business," in which the Kinergy Corp. looks an awful lot like Enron. Do you follow the ins and outs of corporate scandals? What appeals (or doesn't appeal) to you about that world from a writer's point of view?

Parker: I read a couple of books about Enron, and a couple of books about other financial huggermugger. What has fascinated me is the aimless venality of it all. After you have more money than you need, why keep dealing from the bottom?

Bankrate: Was it difficult to adjust to sudden wealth yourself? Do you take an active part in managing your money? Does money in general interest you? Bore you? Why?

Parker: My wife and sons were able to adjust promptly. I am neither better nor worse for it. It allows me to give it to the people I love (above named wife and sons). Which I do. I let others manage the money, though I am not unaware of what they're doing. Money is a means to an end. It neither interests me nor bores me, any more than say gasoline does.

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Bankrate.com: What areas or interests did your success with Spenser open up for you, professionally and/or in your free time? Do you feel you would have been more, less, or just as happy had you been forced to employ plan B? What would you be doing now?

Parker: Spenser got me into the TV and film business and that has been interesting, as long as I don't really need it. My happiness depends primarily on Joan and my sons, beyond that I need to have a job that allows me autonomy. Few jobs give better autonomy than staying home and typing.

Bankrate: You have been extremely successful on television, with numerous screen adaptations of your work over the years, yet it's not a medium you particularly enjoy. What has been the secret behind Spenser's success on the small screen? What's the biggest reason you prefer not to write for the screen?

Parker: I guess people like Spenser and keep hoping the TV version will be like him. Screen writing is a collaborative business and I'm not a collaborative guy.

Bankrate: Do you foresee a day when you'll stop writing and do the R word? Do you plan to write a "Spenser RIP"? Has your motivation to write changed from what started you on this journey in the first place?

Parker: I won't retire. I'll keep writing until I can't, or no one will read me. I do not have, nor do I anticipate a "Spenser RIP." My motivation hasn't changed.

-- Posted: April 12, 2004
More Fame & Fortune stories
Read more stories by Jay  MacDonald
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See Also
Elmore Leonard: Never short financially
Yevgeny Yevtushenko looks askance at money
Rob Becker: Financing the 'Caveman'
Investing glossary
More investing stories

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