Thursday, September 9, 2010

In Memorium: Barbara Parker

If anybody ever asks me to trace my development as a mystery writer, I'll plant a big X on the spot marked by Barbara Parker. Her "Suspicion" series featuring Miami lawyers Gail Connor and Anthony Quintana showed me what crime fiction could be -- intelligent, sharp, laced with tension. She grounded her plots securely in the motivations, secrets, and desires of her characters, who were flesh and blood on the page, fully alive in the reader's imagination. I could smell Miami, feel the salty money-drenched heat of it. Most importantly, she created a relationship between her characters that was real and flawed and seismic. And hot. Pyrotechnic.

I didn't know she'd died until this morning, when I was researching her for a piece I'm writing on the craft of the short story. I was lucky enough to participate in a contest she was judging, luckier still to be a finalist and receive my manuscript back along with her notes in the margins, and a five-page letter offering some of the most spot-on feedback I've ever received. I retooled the piece as suggested, like the other finalists, and when I won, I knew it was because I'd received a master class crash course in the art of short crime fiction.

And today I learn that she died last year. I read her guestbook, filled with praise and glowing tribute to the person she was, the writer she was. I can attest to both.

So I'm lifting a mojito to you, Barbara Parker, a real one with yerba mate and cane sugar and muddled lime. I still have a crush on Anthony Quintana. I'm convinced he's in Miami right now, tangible and warm, reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez, smoking a fine cigar, his dark curious eyes casing the boulevard.

3 comments:

Susanna said...

Wow!

Laura Valeri said...

I'm sorry to hear that. I believe she went to FIU, my alma mater.

Tina said...

I'll bet you're right about the FIU part, Laura. Florida International University sponsored the short story contest.

She was a "wow" writer and a "wow" person.