Featured Writer

Big news: Robert B. Parker's Spenser and Jesse Stone novels will continue.

Yes, Parker died last year.

That put an end to the great stories, or so we all thought until Joan Parker, Robert's widow, approved two writers to carry on the series.

The announcement came out in April.

Mississippi crime writer Ace Atkins will write the Spenser novels. Number 40 in the series, and Atkins' first, will come out next spring.

And Hollywood screenwriter and producer Michael Brandman will write the Stone novels. His first, Killing the Blues, will be published in September.

I'm not personally acquainted with either writer, but I do know two who have continued series created by others—Raymond Benson, the fourth writer approved by the Ian Fleming estate . . . Ray wrote six James Bond novels, three film novelizations, and three Bond short stories . . . and Bob Goldsborough, the first writer approved by the Rex Stout estate. Bob wrote seven Nero Wolfe novels.

Both are Chicago crime writers, and the they and I serve on of the board of directors of the Midwest chapter of the Mystery Writers of America.

Today, meet Bob.

Writing for Mom

photoBob Goldsborough's mother hooked him on reading Nero Wolfe mysteries when he was a teenager. He devoured all 47 novels and 40 novellas, as had his mother.

"She loved the Nero Wolfe mysteries," Bob says, "because there was no overt violence or sex in them and almost no swearing. Those were the same reasons she liked Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot stories."

Then one day, years later—specifically on October 28, 1975—Bob read a lengthy obituary of Rex Stout in the Chicago Tribune, the paper where Bob worked as a writer and editor.

"I showed the obituary to my mother, and she said, 'Oh, now there aren't going to be any more Nero Wolfe stories."

"There might be one more," Bob said.

That night—well, maybe not that night—he pulled a chair up to his Remington typewriter and began beating out a Nero Wolfe novel of his own that he titled Murder in E Minor.

He wrote a couple chapters, then set the pages aside because he didn't know where the story was going.

In 1977, Boston College English professor John McAleer published his biography of Rex Stout. The editors at the Tribune knew Bob liked Nero Wolfe, so they gave him the book and asked him to write a review.

Bob says his review was generally positive, although he had a few reservations about the biography, and he included them in his review.

"I get a letter back from this guy, McAleer," he recalls, "defending himself against my very mild reservations.

"I sent him back a letter saying I've got a few chapters of a Nero Wolfe novel done, and he said he'd like to take a look at them."

So Bob sent off his 30 pages.

He never got a response.

"I thought, ah, the poor son of a gun sitting up there in Massachusetts, he doesn't know how to tell me this is bilge.

"But then a few months went by and I got a detailed three- or four-page critique of my 30 pages in which McAleer said things like 'this is a great phrase. Rex would have liked it.' And this is from a guy who knew Stout very, very well—spent a lot of time with him. In another place he said, 'Rex would never have used that word. He didn't like it.'

"Well, I felt I was getting a message from beyond the grave. I got energized by that critique, and I finished the book."

Bob had his manuscript bound—one copy and one copy only—and dedicated the book to his mother with these words, "To my mother who introduced me to Nero and Archie."

"I gave the book to her on Christmas Eve, 1978, and she opened it—took off the wrapping. It said on the front 'Murder in E Minor, a Nero Wolfe mystery,' embossed in gold on this leatherette cover. She turned inside—she missed the dedication—and saw Chapter 1, and she asked me, 'Is this a Nero Wolfe story I've never read?'

"I said, 'Mom, it's a Nero Wolfe story nobody's ever read.'"

Mom Goldsborough read it and loved it.

photoIt would take another nine years for Bob to get Murder in E Minor published.

Stout's daughters were reluctant to have someone else write their father's stories.

"Coincidentally, I got to know a man at Bantam Books, the only company that could publish more Nero Wolfe books because they had the back list. I mentioned my manuscript to him, and he was interested."

The daughters wanted that back list of their father's novels reissued. They wanted the revenue. The Bantam editors said a way to reintroduce them would be to first bring out a new Nero Wolfe book, "and there's this guy in Chicago."

The sisters said knew of "this guy", that they had a copy of Bob's manuscript that Bob had sent to them by way of their lawyer.

Negotiations commenced.

A contract was issued and signed.

And Murder in E Minor came out in 1986.

Bob then wrote six more Nero Wolfe mysteries before he turned to writing his own mystery series—the Snap Malek mysteries. Snap is a police reporter for the Chicago Tribune in the 1930s and '40s.

Five books to date in that series, the most recent Terror at the Fair—set during the Chicago Railroad Fair of 1949.

For more about Bob Goldsborough and his books, pop over to his website, robertgoldsborough.com.


© Jerry Peterson.

Early's Winter by Jerry Peterson