The Bat Phone
Finally, I have my own Bat Phone.
I guess that makes me a superhero, except for the tights (do cycling tights count?). This amazing replica of the Bat Phone from the 1960s TV series of my youth was a gift from my brother, Dr. Jonathan Finder, who is not only a remarkable pediatric pulmonologist and researcher at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh but also a collector and restorer of vintage telephones (which occasionally end up on movie sets). The phone lights up when it rings. (Though it’s rarely Commissioner Gordon calling; more often it’s my editor or agent.) Permit me a crass plug: You too can buy a Bat Phone from Jon’s website . . . Or a genuine noir desk phone that Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe might have slammed down. (Or a pink Princess phone, if that’s more your style.) They’re at OldPhones.com.
Now all I need is a Shakespeare bust with a head you tip back to expose a secret switch that moves the fake bookcase exposing the fire poles down to the Batcave.
(actual props from the television show "Batman")
In Honor of Robert B. Parker
I was fortunate to be a friend of the late Robert B. Parker and his wife, Joan. When Bouchercon, the annual convention of the Mystery Writers of America, invited me to serve on a panel to discuss Parker’s work (along with Lee Goldberg, Dick Lochte, and Mark Coggins, moderated by Russel McLean), I asked Joan whether she wanted to send along a letter for me to read aloud. She was happy to have a chance to reflect and reminisce about Bob on a personal level. Here’s her letter. I think any Parker fan will be interested to learn a bit more about the man behind Spenser (and Hawke):
I want to thank the organizers of this year’s Bouchercon for devoting a panel to my husband’s work. I’d also like to take this opportunity to clear up an important misconception: I am not Susan Silverman.
I’m nowhere near as vain . . . I swear.
From when he was a kid, Bob read mysteries — or “potboilers,” as they used to be called, before the genre achieved the long overdue respect it now enjoys. His favorite by far was Raymond Chandler, because of Chandler’s hero, Philip Marlowe, that knight errant with a tough-guy exterior and an unwavering code of honor. So when Bob finally sat down at our kitchen table one summer, determined to write a mystery of his own, he created the character of Spenser very much in the Philip Marlowe mode, but updated for a very different time.
What very few people know about Bob was that it wasn’t just his fictional alter-ego who lived by a stringent moral code. Bob did too, though I didn’t know that when I first met him at the Colby College freshman dance in 1950, a wise-ass greaser with a lit cigarette tucked behind his ear. In fact, I spent most of my college years trying to avoid him. But as so many of Bob Parker’s readers would later discover, behind that glib, wisecracking façade were profound depths and a strong ethical sense. When his college frat refused to let in blacks or Jews he quit, but only after delivering a blistering speech that ended with the words, “F— you.” It’s hard for younger writers and readers to understand how racist and sexist our society was when Bob and I entered college. This was long before Betty Friedan or Gloria Steinem. Bob was a feminist before anyone had ever heard of the word. That’s why he created Susan Silverman: he thought it was time for private-eye writers to stop treating women as accessories, as “molls.” As much as he admired Philip Marlowe, Bob wanted a protagonist who wasn’t a loner, who had a significant woman in his life, and who didn’t put up with the casual racism we all lived with. I think that’s why he had to create the character of Hawke. Hawke was not only Spenser’s dark side, he was Bob Parker’s dark side as well — his id. Hawke was the guy who could beat up people who needed beating up, when law enforcement couldn’t deliver justice.
I suppose it’s fitting that Bob died at his desk. He loved to write almost as much as he loved his family. He hated to leave the house and did so only under extreme duress.
I know that somewhere up there Bob is smiling — in gratitude at this honor from his fellow writers . . . but most of all relieved he didn’t have to get on a plane and fly across the country for this.
I thank you.
New Trivia Contest
Every two months, a different Joseph Finder souvenir will be given to three lucky readers who can answer a trivia question. The winners will be drawn at random from among the correct responses.
October-November Trivia Question: What was the name of the corporation Jason Steadman worked for in KILLER INSTINCT?
Submit your answer, along with your full name and mailing address, via the website Contact Form by November 30. If you are correct, you’ll have a chance to win one of three signed copies of POWER PLAY. Good Luck!