Robert B. Parker, the blunt and beloved crime novelist who helped revive the hard-boiled genre through his Spenser series, died yesterday of natural causes at 77. Prolific to the end, Parker wrote more than 50 novels, including 37 featuring Boston private eye Spenser. The character's first name was a mystery and his last name emphatically spelled with an "s" in the middle, not a "c." He was the basis for the 1980s TV series Spenser: For Hire, starring Robert Urich.
A native of Springfield, Mass., Parker openly worshiped Raymond Chandler and other classic crime writers and helped bring back their cool, clipped style in such early Spenser novels as The Godwulf Manuscript and God Save the Child. Within a few years, in Looking for Rachel Wallace and Early Autumn, he was acclaimed as a master in his own right.