Thursday, October 20, 2011

Killing the Blues by Michael Brandman (and maybe Robert B. Parker, too)

I wanted to dislike it because the continuation of someone else's baby by another writer just doesn't sit well with me--and they usually fail, or seem intent to just make money (see: James Bond).  But Brandman does a good job here, keeping most of Parker's Jesse Stone while adding the inevitable small changes.  Most of these changes work.

Jesse talks a little more; he actually sounds a bit more like Spenser.  I thought the original character was too quiet, as Brandman apparently did.  Parker also got hung up too much on Jenn; it was time for her to go, and she has.  The Parker combination of Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall always seemed forced to me; perhaps he felt he had nothing much more to say about her,especially after Helen Hunt turned down the role.  I don't know, but they definitely needed to break up, and they have.  Stone also comes across here as a little more...stoic (sorry), which is odd since he speaks more here.  But he admits directly that he didn't miss Sunny.  In a Stephen King story, he'd be asking Parker directly why he had to date Sunny, anyway.  His direct actions and verbosity work for me, though he also seems too Spenserian when he helps the ex-hood find a job, and when he talked to the female students, the teacher and the principal.  (Note to Brandman: Massachusetts doesn't have homeroom anymore; it's now called advisory.)  Parker's anti-teacher torch is definitely carried on.

So Stone doing his Spenser impersonation didn't work for me, and Stone is certainly not a cat-lover.  I guess Brandman wanted to set up a Stone/Spenser duality; maybe he's taking over Spenser, too.  If so, it was wise for him to turn out a Stone book first, before he tackled the iconic Spenser.

Brandman's book is a little edgier than Parker's would've been, maybe a little more noir.  That's okay with me.  A few things didn't work, but that's to be expected.  And Brandman creates an admirable mixture of a book that's 70% Parker and 30% Brandman.  Perhaps Parker, notoriously productive, already had a large part of the ms. written--notice that the copyright belongs to the Estate of Robert B. Parker, not to Brandman.  Had this been 100% Brandman, I doubt that would be the case.  We'll have to see with future Stone books.

The torch has changed hands, but it hasn't gone out.  Brandman has earned the right here to run with it.


  1. So, this is a passing mark or a wait-and-see? Guess the next book will really show if he's got the goods. Although I have not read any of the Jesse Stone series - it's good to know.

  2. It's a passing mark. But the next one will show if the series will be more Brandman than Parker. This last one was more Parker than Brandman--because I can see what wasn't Parker. The transition was smooth, but not seemless--and that's okay.