Friday, February 5, 2010

Robert Parker/Jesse Stone on TV and in audio

Title: High Profile
Author: Robert B. Parker
Reader: Scott Sowers
Publisher: Random House Audio
ISBN-10: 0739318683
ISBN-13: 978-0739318683

CBS's Jesse Stone series: Thin Ice

Usually, I don't get the TV my mom chooses to watch. When I was in Ohio one time minus the last time, we saw an episode of Gray's Anatomy in which all plot lines were sad and everyone was dying or failing at their job, and I kid you not, I believe every single character cried at one point or another. The whole thing was just so very, very depressing that at the end of the episode, I was moved to yell, though tears, "Why do you watch this?" at my also-crying mother. NOT the ideal TV experience for me. So, when I was home this past Christmas and my mom and dad seemed excited about the "Jesse Stone" show that was coming on TV, I was very, very dubious.

In CBS's Jesse Stone series, Tom Selleck plays Jesse Stone; the episode I saw was called Thin Ice. I expected it to be awful, but instead I loved it, and I'm grateful to my mom and dad for pointing it out to me.

Tom Selleck plays Stone in the series, and he's really perfect, I think. Once in a while--though hardly ever--a fictional detective is cast perfectly in a TV series. The last really great (and probably unparalleled) example of this would be the inimitable Jeremy Brett in the BBC's Sherlock Holmes series.

Jeremy Brett was Sherlock Holmes.

Now, I can't make the same claim for Selleck/Stone because at this point I've only read a few of the Stone mysteries (and still have seen only one of the TV shows), but I feel that Selleck really nails the essence of Stone (in my opinion): he's great at the restrained delivery required to make Stone's deadpan brand of humor come off successfully on screen. He also does a fabulous job of communicating Stone's world-weary, thoughtful approach to police work. The other main roles are cast very nicely, too: I liked the guy who plays Suitcase a lot, and Kathy Barker, who plays Molly, is wonderful also (though I believe we are to think she is younger in the books, I actually prefer her to the book version). At any rate, the TV show was quite a surpise, in the best of ways.

Since I'd liked the TV show so much, I started listening to the audiobooks, and I think those are also well worth the time. It's a rare gift to me to find a great detective series I hadn't known about before, and this series has many of the components I love most: a complicated, introspective, flawed but likable detective; intelligence and humor in the dialogue and the story, but also a respect for the horror of crime/homicide; strong supporting characters; crimes that are resonant and upsetting. In addition, Stone is in therapy, and I enjoy how Parker portrays his therapist, Dix. It's an excellent example of how even a macho guy can be thoughtful about his emotions and moral behavior.

The audiobooks are read by Scott Sowers, and he does (to my Ohio/Nebraska ears) a fine job with the New England area accent of the locals (Suitcase and Molly in particular). The audiobooks are really addictive; thus far, I've listened to High Profile, Night and Day, and Sea Change. All of these audiobooks are available for download from the Lincoln City Library's downloadable audiobooks page. It has revolutionized my life, that service.

I have yet to actually read a Stone mystery from a physical book. That's my next goal. I was quite saddened, like Jana, to see that Robert B. Parker recently died, particularly (for selfish reasons) since I just discovered him and was hoping for many more Stone mysteries. I will have to try the Spenser books, perhaps.

If there is one thing that rankles a bit in the Stone books, it has to be the portrayal of him as devastatingly attractive to most (if not all) women, and also, his addiction to a bad, bad relationship with Jen, who is an interesting if fairly irredeemable character. Women like Jen--beautiful liars who sleep their way to the top--don't really exist, I always thought; they are mostly a sexist stereotype. Now, I could be wrong, but I hope I'm not. But like I said, Jen is at least marginally interesting, though Stone's blind devotion to her is puzzling. (He is working it out in therapy, of course!) Finally, there is a healthy level of on-the-job sexual innuendo at the Paradise Police Dept., and while mostly that makes me smile, sometimes I feel sorry for Molly, the lone female in the department.

If you are reading fairly hard-boiled detective novels, you're going to encounter stereotypical portrayals of women; that is a given. The great writers end up making these women compelling characters nonetheless, and my early impression of the Stone books is that Parker manages to do so successfully.

One of the most common lines of the Stone stories I've read is "Jesse smiled." He usually does this in an interrogation when he's helping someone hang themselves. Here is a photo of Selleck doing "Jesse smiled" to perfection:

(from the CBS site for the Stone series)


  1. I've seen ads for Jesse Stone on TV and wondered if they were worth it. Now I want to see them.

    I haven't read the Jesse Stone books yet, but I'm sure I'll get around to them some time.

  2. "Jeremy Brett was Sherlock Holmes."


    (i was surprised to learn he was also Freddie, Eliza Doolittle's love-struck suitor, in "My Fair Lady" in his younger days)


  3. << Kathy Barker, who plays Molly>>

    Actually, Kathy Baker plays Rose Gammon. Viola Davis played Molly in the first four Jesse Stone movies.