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Dustin LindenSmith

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beautiful suspense excerpt

I had to quote this excerpt from Robert B. Parker's Family Honor (1999), a novel-length thriller penned by the same author as the Spenser series (i.e. the series upon which was based the 1990s Boston-based PI TV series, Spenser for Hire). Spenser is not the protagonist in this novel, though. Instead, it's Sunny Randall, a tough, attractive blonde private detective who, interestingly, is the ex-wife of a mobster's son (who's involved peripherally in the business himself).

The excerpt is more poignant if taken in context. In this scene, Sunny is being chased by a would-be mobster named Kragan who knows that she has information that could incriminate him. Once Sunny makes the tail (i.e. discovers she's being followed), she slams on the brakes just in time to avoid a shotbun blast coming from her pursuers. She does a fast U-turn and drives to the first place within sight: a restaurant that happens to be owned by a black gangster named Tony Marcus whom she knows personally from prior experience. The scene opens after Sunny has squealed to a stop on the sidewalk in front of the Marcus's restaurant.
The place was full. Everyone was black, and most of them were male. I went to the bar.

"Tony Marcus," I said. "My name's Sunny Randall."

I could tell that the bartender had seen my gun. But all he said was, "Hold on."

He must have hit a button under the bar because all of a sudden Junior appeared in the hallway with Ty-Bop jittering beside him. (Note: Junior and Ty-Bop are Tony Marcus's bodyguards.) Kragan (the mobster/pursuer) came into the restaurant with two other men. All three had their hands in their pockets. Tony Marcus slid past Junior and stood beside me at the bar.

"Sunny Randall," he said, and held out his hand to me.

Kragan glanced around the restaurant and then began to walk toward me.

"He wants to kill me," I said to Tony.

"We don't want him doing none of that," Marcus said and stepped in front of me. "Do we?"

"Step away from her," Kragan said.

Tony looked at Ty-Bop, and a gun appeared in Ty-Bop's hand as if it had always been there.

"He show a piece," Tony jerked his head at Kragan, "kill him."

From his post in the hallway Junior produced a double-barrelled shotgun. The bartender showed a pump gun. Both shotguns were aimed at Kragan's companions. Kragan looked at Ty-Bop. Ty-Bop looked back at him without expression. He was suddenly motionless, as if the gun had stabilized him. His small eyes had the depth and humanity of two bottle caps. It was as if his life was in his gun. Kragan looked at him the way a huge crocodile might suddenly confront a small, very poisonous viper. In Kragan's face was the slowly dawning realization that this trivial boy could kill him. Him! The restaurant was dead silent. The diners all hunched a little lower over their tables, trying to watch, trying not to get caught watching, hoping that if the guns went off they wouldn't get hit.

"You motherfuckers have a reservation?" Tony said.

Nobody said anything. Kragan couldn't seem to take his eyes off me. His desire to kill me seemed almost sensual.

"No?" Tony said, just as if Kragan had answered. "Then get the fuck out of my restaurant."

Nothing moved.

"I say three, and you ain't moving," Tony Marcus said to Kragan. "Then Ty-Bop going to shoot you in the head. One..."

Kragan moved. Without a word he turned and walked out. The two backup men went out after him. The room was quiet for a moment, then someone began to clap and then somebody else clapped, and then everyone in the restaurant began to applaud.

"Join us for supper, Sunny," Tonmy Marcus said. "Later on I'll have somebody taken you home. You like chitlins?"

"I couldn't eat," I said.

"Never liked them much either," Tony said.
Now come on. Wasn't that beautiful? A piece of suspense art, that was. Bob Parker has got it going on.

And doesn't that make you want to be a gangster? Just for a moment? Man, I'm glad all the ghetto kids are getting is 50-Cent -- if they read this shit, they'd join the gangs in droves. :)

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robertstheology November 4th, 2004
I enjoy Robert Parker's books, have read them for many years. Thanks, this was great!

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