Two talented writers left our world this week – Robert B. Parker and Erich Segal. Writing in dramatically different styles, tones and genres, both men created characters that will live on in their absence.
Robert B. Parker is best known for his series of books starring Spenser, a hard-boiled detective in Boston, Mass. Parker wrote more than 35 books featuring Korean War vet, ex-boxer, food, baseball and jazz lover Spenser. The books were developed into a television series in the 80s. Parker had said that what he liked about the program was the residual checks. Parker created two other characters, each of which spawned other series – a female private eye, Sunny Randall and ex-baseballer alcoholic turned police chief, Jesse Stone.
Parker was felled at his desk by a heart attack at age 77. Parker wrote between five and ten pages a day, and claimed to never rewrite his pages. His productivity resulted in more than sixty published novels.
Erich Segal was an unlikely candidate to write a potboiler romance. He was a professor of the classics, first at Yale and more recently at Oxford. He wrote the screenplay for the Beatles classic “Yellow Submarine,” half a dozen novels, and a book on western comic drama. But he is best known for a 144 page novel Love Story, that tells of rich boy Oliver Barett IV and poor girl Jenny Cavilleri that begins It opens with the words, “what can you say about a 25 year old girl who died?”
The 144 page book “…takes the average person an hour and a half to read the book,” as Segal told the New York Times in 1970. “The movie lasts longer.” The movie, as most know, was 1970’s Love Story starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. The tear-jerker garnered 7 Academy Award nominations. The tag line, “love means never having to say you’re sorry” has lived on in infamy. The character of Barett was said to be a cross between Segal’s Yale buddies, Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones.
Segal died of a heart attack at age 72.