Partners in Crime: The Robert B. And Joan H. Parker Collection


This exhibition celebrated a new influx of archival material. New material featured in the exhibition includes many photographs of Robert from childhood on - something the earlier incarnation of the collection had lacked. These included photographs of an angelic seven-year-old Parker, an undated grittily atmospheric portrait photograph by internationally renowned photographer Philip Porcella, and a photograph of a shirtless Parker taken while serving in Korea. This photograph was sent home with the inscription:"This is not Tarzan, nor is it Lil Abner. It's your own sweet boy posing in front of his spacious living quarters. The spacious living quarter on top is mine." He is, of course, referring to a set of army regulation bunk beds. His photograph is paired with an elegant photograph of Joan, sent to Robert while on duty in Korea in 1955.

The first literary collaboration between Joan and Robert was the book Three Weeks in Spring (1978), documenting Joan's battle against and treatment for breast cancer. A copy of the book is part of the exhibition. Another area of collaboration between Robert and Joan was screenplay writing for the Spenser: For Hire television series. Manuscript pages from the episode Pale Kings and Princes (1993), based on the Parker novel of the same name, are on view. Also shown in the exhibition are pages from the final draft script for an episode of the short-lived "Hawk" spin-off, A Man Called Hawk (February 1989). There was also a copy of their book, A Year at the Races (1990), which documents their year-long observation of one stable owner's string of race horses: from training in South Carolina to steeplechase and flat races at the great tracks.

Manuscript material related solely to Robert's projects included uncorrected proofs for God Save the Child (1974) which marked the introduction of Spenser's enduring love interest, Susan Silverman; and a hand-corrected draft with handwritten outline notes for Promised Land (1976) which marked the introduction of the important recurring character "Hawk." Also on exhibit were handwritten outline notes for chapters one through four of Parker's baseball novel, Mortal Stakes, originally titled "Squeeze Play." Shown with the notes is a letter to Parker from Stephen King expressing concern over the subject matter's parallel to a non-fictional Red Sox player. There was also correspondence from Burt Reynolds in 1996 to Parker regarding his narration of the Spenser audio book, Chance.

Material related solely to Joan included a number of photographs from a variety of events. Of particular interest was one of Joan Parker attending the opening of the Joan Parker Building (2007), home to the not-for-profit food and nutrition program, Community Servings, an organization with which Joan is very involved.

The exhibition concluded with a copy of Sixkill (2011), Parker's 39th novel in the Spenser series, published posthumously. Along with the book was a photograph of Joan Parker with journalist/author Ace Atkins. In 2011, the Parker family, along with Parker's publishers, decided to continue two series of Parker's franchise with new authors: new Spenser novels will be written by Ace Atkins and new Jesse Stone novels will be written by Michael Brandman.

This exhibition is no longer on view.

Alan Cumming
The Parkers