First: Robert Parker, mystery novelist and creator of the Spenser series, died yesterday at the age of 77. Parker wrote over 60 books according to the Guardian, and judging by my inbox was a favorite author of many Bitchery readers.
I confess: I haven’t read any of Parker’s books. Which would you recommend?
Second: Erich Segal passed away yesterday as well at the age of 72. Segal is best known for “Love Story” but I was a huge fan of his novel “Doctors,,” which was one of my gateways into romance reading.
Segal took a lot of crap for being a popular novelist:
Although Mr. Segal’s work resonated with the public, critics almost uniformly lambasted it. The judges for the National Book Award threatened to resign unless “Love Story” was withdrawn from nomination.
“It is a banal book which simply doesn’t qualify as literature,” said novelist William Styron, the head judge of the fiction panel. “Simply by being on the list it would have demeaned the other books.”
Mr. Segal was thrust from the life of a scholar to that of a jet-setting star. He appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson four times in four weeks, was a judge at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for best screenplay. He made weekend jaunts to Paris and London, returning to Yale for his classes on classical civilization, which filled a 600-seat auditorium and were among the most popular at the university….
Yale decided that Mr. Segal’s extracurricular assignments were taking too much time away from his academic work and denied him tenure in 1972, a blow that took years to overcome. He continued to lead his intellectual double life as a popular novelist and serious scholar, publishing best-selling novels and works on ancient literature, but he remained puzzled at the mockery and anger of the literary elite.
While jogging in New York’s Central Park, Mr. Segal once recalled, he saw novelist Philip Roth and said, “I admire your work.”
“And I admire your running,” Roth replied.
Ouch. Segal’s denial of tenure makes me wonder if the same thing would have happened today instead of 1972. Aren’t professors with a great deal of public following more sought-after in terms of institutional currency?
My condolences to Segal’s and Parker’s families.