Fantasy Mystery Romance Comics Non-Fiction

Small Vices, Audio Edition

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Small Vices, Audio Edition (1997) Robert B. Parker narrated by Burt Reynolds

Small VicesIt’s been more than two decades, so this review is going to be completely full of spoilers, because I want to talk about the many reasons why I love this book so very much. So if you haven’t read it, well, you’re missing out. Because this really is one of my favorite books–and I also adore the narration.

First off, I’ve always loved Spenser’s self-awareness.

It was a given that if I had a club sandwich, I would get some of it on my shirt. What was under consideration was whether I cared or not, which was related to how I felt about Marcy. Which I hadn’t decided.

The other thing I love is his inherent respect for women.

We sat and looked at each other. I liked her. There was a calmness in her, a quality of settled self-confidence in the way she leaned back in her chair, the simplicity of her attire, the understatement of her makeup. She knew herself and was happy with what she knew. It made her formidable.

Even Patricia Utley, the New York madame, gets respect. Although Robert B Parker does poke a little bit of fun at her, in a scene I adore.

“(Rosie the small dog) likes it if you say rub rub rub, while you’re doing it.”

“I can’t do that,” I said. “You’d tell.”

“Rub, rub, rub,” Patricia Utley said for me.

And there is the way he plays with words, like in ANOTHER favorite passage of mine.

Since my name was anathema at Pemberton, I had to employ guile. I called the alumni office and said my name was Anathema and I was with the IRS.

“We have an income tax refund for Ms. Glenda Baker, which has been returned by the postal service. Would you have a more recent address for her?”

“What did you say your name was?”

“Anathema,” I said. “Pervis Anathema, refund enactment agent.”

I’ve mentioned also how I also love Burt Reynold’s narration of Small Vices, in part from this single passage, where Hawk is speaking.

“So,” Hawk said, “Alves borrows or steals a car one night, an inconspicuous old pink Caddy. He drives out to Pemberton in his inconspicuous car, where there ain’t no black folks, and the cops pay attention to any that they see. He cruises around in his inconspicuous car until he spots a white girl on a busy street, drags her into his inconspicuous car in front of witnesses, drives her somewhere, takes off her clothes and strangles her, though he maybe doesn’t rape her, dumps her body in the middle of the Pemberton Campus, and rides on back home with her clothes and the aforesaid ligature in his inconspicuous car, so in case the cops stop him he can incriminate himself.”

Hawk’s voice is a little rougher than Spenser’s and he generally speaks with a fair amount of the street. But in this paragraph they way he carefully pronounces “inconspicuous” emphasized the ridiculousness of what was taken as a given during the trial.

Another thing I adore is how he manages the passage of time. Chapter 36 is leaving the hospital and the drive to California. As they are leaving Boston, there is the following exchange.

“Where we going,” I said.

“Santa Barbara,” Susan said.



“We’re driving.”

“Yes. It’s safer.”

“You mind if I sing ‘California Here I Come’ as we roll along?” I said.

“You’re in a weakened condition,” Susan said. “It’s better if you rest.”

“I’m just thinking of you,” I said. “It’s a long ride.”

“Remember I got a gun,” Hawk said.

“You’d shoot me if I sing? Your brother?”

“Shoot myself,” Hawk said, “you sing a lot.”

The rest of the chapter is the briefest of descriptions of the trip, interspersed with lyrics to Route 66 (which Spenser also threatened to sing). As I said, it’s a short chapter, but it gives you the sense of travel and time.

And then time all but stops when they first get to California, as Spenser begins the hard work of rehabilitation. And that’s yet another thing I love about this story. Spenser was shot three times and nearly died. He’s in a coma for about three weeks, and he can’t even walk unaided when he leaves the hospital. He has a LOT of rehab to do, and Robert B Parker does an amazing job showing us precisely how much work this is. Chapter 38 is six pages long and it is entirely Spenser’s struggle to walk up a hill. I realize that sounds ridiculous, but it’s truly amazing.

And then the next chapter spans several months, and eventually Spenser works up to running up the hill. It does such an amazing job of showing you just how much hard work Spenser had to do, and just how long it took him to recover. It’s really one of my favorite sections in almost any book.

But what really makes the book for me is summed up in the final chapter.

“They had everything, money, position, each other. The girl was lovely and successful, wasn’t she?”

“So they tell me.”

“The boy was handsome and accomplished.”

“And he didn’t mean to kill her,” I said. “Just a little exotic sex.”

“And it destroys his whole family, the father, the son— the mother must be devastated . . .”

“To save a career criminal who’ll be back in jail in no time,” I said.

“And a professional killer goes free to accomplish it.”

In the end, Spenser does what he was hired to do, even though Ellis Alves was clearly going to end up back in jail, the Gray Man clearly was not going to stop being a hired killer, and a young man with a promising career is destroyed.

The whole thing is all but perfect, and as I said one of my all-time favorite stories.

Producer: Phoenix Audio
Rating: 10/10


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