I Can Read: Back Story

Appaloosa was such a kick, both as film and a book, I decided to see if I could glean equal enjoyment from one of the oodles of detective stories on which Robert B. Parker’s fame is based. But which of the oodles?

I recalled reading on Jimmy Johnson’s Arlo and Janis website, that his comic strip was alluded to in at least one of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser detective thrillers. A Google grouping of “Arlo, Janis and Spenser” led to Back Story. I zipped at once to Mysteries to Die For, a specialty book store in Thousand Oaks, and snagged my own personal copy wherein I discovered how Detective Spenser was hired for the price of six Krispy Kreme doughnuts by actress Daryl Gordon to find the person who murdered her mom, Emily, 28 years earlier.

Well, Spenser proceeds (as his partner, Hawk, says) to “shoot up almost everybody that move in eastern Massachussetts so’s we can find out who killed Emily Gordon.” He also makes lots of wisecracks, including this one in conversation with Hawk (Spenser is a white guy; Hawk a black guy):

“If they come after me, you come lippity-lop to my rescue.”

“Lippity-lop?”

“Yeah. Like Br’er Rabbit. I’m trying to bridge the racial gap.”

“Let it gap,” Hawk said.

This banter, showing up about halfway through the mystery, caused me to realize with surprise that I had already read Back Story. I had read it years ago — maybe 2004? — whenever it was I had learned about it on the Arlo and Janis site. Fortunately for the sake of preserving the suspense, all I recalled from the previous reading was the “lippity-lop” exchange — it made me laugh then and it made me laugh again this time. Also, there was a scene where Spenser shoots three very shoot-worthy bad guys in Harvard Stadium that stirred a faint memory. Not one other detail, or wisecrack, or plot twist, or action scene had remained with me, so I was able to enjoy this repeat reading with the pure pleasure of a first. Maybe four or five years hence I will be able to enjoy it a third time as though it were new.

I ask you: Is that a favorable review or a negative review?

Back Story by Robert B. Parker
(Berkley Trade Pub, Mass Market Paperback, 304pp.)

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