School Days

SchoolDaysSuggested by Brad Nelson • A rich grandmother whose grandson was involved in a school shooting in a ritzy white suburb of Boston refuses to believe he’s guilty. She hires private detective Spenser to prove his innocence. The untangling of this mess unravels other sordid goings on in the area.
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10 Responses to School Days

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Suffering withdrawal symptoms from having run out of Tom Selleck’s “Jesse Stone” TV movies, I decided to pick up another of Robert B. Parker’s characters. I may indeed try one of the Jesse Stone novels, but I had read a review that suggested that the Spencer ones were even better.

    Gauging by “School Days,” I’m guessing these novels are perfect time-gap fillers – when waiting in an airport or that type of thing. They are an easy read, fairly short, and to the point. It’s not high literature but I just came off trying to read “David Copperfield.” Good God, the man could write, but his subject matter was often boring as hell.

    In “School Days” you’ll follow Spencer on a detective adventure as he immerses himself in the aftermath of a school shooting. The moral issues engaged are light and token…much as you would expect to see on most any of the modern dumbed-down prime time TV shows. I wouldn’t read this for deep philosophy unless you had the immature mind of a 13-year-old, at least gauging by this one story.

    Somewhere between David Copperfield and Spencer there is a happy medium regarding such things. But at least Spencer is a fun read. And it was a fun read, at least up until the end where the sheer lack of depth of this type of novel showed. The ending was a strained attempt at some sort of pop wisdom. But before that, it was indeed a way to get a little more Jesse Stone, for the Spencer character is nearly the same…complete with sidekick dog and his favorite brand of whiskey. This is a light read but a relatively good read. I probably will try another.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      My 9th grade reader had the first 12 chapters of David Copperfield. I never tried to go further in it (though I have seen one movie version). On the other hand, I’ve never read anything by Parker.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Well, I’ll try another Parker novel to sort of triangulate and let you know. I might try one of his earlier ones. “School Days” was from 2005, very near the end of the line. His first Spencer novel was “The Godwulf Manuscript” in 1973.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I was huge fan of Dickens in my teens and twenties. The man could write, no doubt about it.

      I am a bit less enamored of his books these days, but I still think he is in the top tier of English writers. He does make use of a few too many adjectives, but with a little abridging his books are fun to read.

      David Copperfield is the wrong Dickens book to start with. I would recommend starting with “Great Expectations”, “Our Mutual Friend” or “Bleak House”.

      Dickens’ novel are almost as much about locale as they are about character. The culture, society and vocabulary are from early and mid-nineteenth century England. And unless one is familiar with these, one is missing a lot. For instance, how many know the meaning of, “nothing but the charcoal left for him”?

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Mr. Kung, I might continue with David Copperfield…sort of like eating one’s vegetables. And it’s not as if I’ve never attempted a difficult book (Les Miz, Moby Dick, House of the Seven Gables, etc.). But I just don’t find David Copperfield particularly compelling. The best part so far was his writing about the relationship between David and the little girl he met on the boat-house. This comes very early in the novel. It’s thoroughly charming writing set in a story I don’t otherwise care much about.

        You’ll have to explain that charcoal idiom.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          “nothing but the charcoal left for him”

          You’ll have to explain that charcoal idiom.

          It is the nineteenth century of “nothing left for him to do, but close the garage door and turn on the car.”

          Suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning was not uncommon.
          Apparently, a fair number of people chose to get a good pile of charcoal going in a small closed room and take a big breath for a relatively quick and painless exit.

          I can’t recall which Dickens book it came from, but the saying has stuck with me for these many decades.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          Les Miz, Moby Dick, House of the Seven Gables

          I read all three many years ago, but re-read Les Miz probably about 15-20 years back. Of the three, I believe I liked it the best. Of course, that might be because I had to read the other two in junior high school and Les Miz was by choice.

          As I recall, Les Miz was the one which came most closely to the length of David Copperfield as well.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Yes, I think Les Miz was the best. It’s an extraordinary book…and a long one at 1488 pages. David Copperfield is (according to Amazon) about 1263 pages. You pull out the description of the Battle of Waterloo, and Lez Miz would be about the same. Or the various aside-descriptions of a great many things. It got a bit ponderous, but no one matches ponderous asides like Melville’s Moby Dick. I’m quite sure that’s why many author’s make judicious use of appendices and such. Perhaps he should have.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’m about 36% into Parker’s first Spencer novel, “The Godwulf Manuscript.” Offhand I would say that the style and quality hasn’t changed between this 1973 novel and “School Days” which was published in 2005. It’s the same formula. And the formula is okay enough.

    One thing that stands out is how over-the-top the characterization often is of the “weisenheimer,” Spencer. His brashness is a bit ham-fisted at times. Spencer is sometimes like Sam Space on steroids. And it doesn’t make sense that he could get away with this kind of talk. Gumshoes are a dime a dozen in the phone book.

    But this is all indeed fantasy. Otherwise some of his wise-guy stuff is pretty funny. He’s certainly at times at least mildly politically incorrect, which is a service to the human race at the very least.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I finished “The Goldwulf Manuscript” and read the next book in the series. “The Goldwulf Manuscript” has a good plot. It stays interesting. It’s slightly better than “School Days.” Both are significantly better than Parker’s second novel in the series, “God Save The Child.” That one reads like a bad TV script at times.

    The stories are formulaic. And that’s okay if you like the formula. But in “God Save The Child,” the character of Spenser has begun to wear fast. His adolescent remarks are little more than that. And Parker spends an inordinate amount of time describing people’s clothes. And that would be fine if that was an outgrowth of some type of obsessive-compulsion that was useful in his profession of private eye, noticing every detail…but this connection is not made.

    Unlike the H. Rider Haggard novels featuring Allan Quatermain where successive layers of the character tend to be laid out, with Spenser what you see is what you get…and often less. He’s a one-shtick character, and that trait is to be unnecessarily and inappropriately rude.

    So I’m going to go thumbs-down on this. By all means, give one or two of them a read. For complete time-wasting, throw-away fiction, they are quite readable. But it’s like trying to eat cotton candy when you’re hungry for something more filling.

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