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  • Reverend James Squire

Spencer and Hawk

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

When I developed a friendship with Chaim Potok, author of the Chosen, (sold 650,000 books) and many other novels that had the theme of core values in confrontation with the culture of the world around the individual, I learned why Potok chose to take on that theme of seeing his books as a merging of different world views.

He had read Eveyln Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited which is the story of the caste system that existed in a grand home with family and servants. It was very different from the world in which he lived. He was a conservative Jewish rabbi in America. Waugh's novel inspired him and took him into a different world of English nobility and estate living that had some shared cultural impact and values in the lives lived in Waugh’s novel. Two very different worlds with shared experience.

I now find myself doing somewhat the same thing. During the day I read books that will help me help others. I never read fiction anymore. However, I now find myself reading a chapter or two of one of Robert B. Parker’s 40 mystery books before bed at night about a detective, Spencer, and his partner, Hawk, who possesses the same character traits.

Most of what I read during the day is “heavy” stuff which helps me help people in very difficult

physical, spiritual, or emotional challenges. At bedtime I pick up a Parker book. I do this because he writes beautifully. He has a Ph.D. in English Literature and takes me into a world that is different from the one that I usually occupy. His books are about Boston and its environs for that is where he was raised and went to school.

But there are other reasons why I read the Spencer series. Both he and Hawk are part of a hardscrabble world which helps me to touch my origins in a blue-collar world. Spencer is white. Hawk is black. Their respect and regard for one another transcends race. Spencer never kicks someone when they are down and thrives on an investigation that has a narrative that is against all odds. His books are filled with diversity, religious and otherwise. Spencer’s partner in life is Jewish. I also enjoy the way that they go about solving crimes with a “wait and see how things unfold” manner reflecting a lot of thinking outside of the box, lateral thinking. Spencer is a modern-day Sherlock Holmes. The books also have twists and turns which keep my interest.

Like Potok I see that various narratives in the story are similar to my own interior narrative and values that are important to me. Spencer and Hawk are courageous, honest, direct, and empathetic to those they are trying to help. They are “old school” and “new school” all at the same time.

I never read a book more than once, but I can go back and re read books in this series, and it doesn’t bother me. It’s a bit like when I would read to my children before they went to bed when they were young. “Read it again!” they would say. "Read it just one more time!” I knew that it wasn’t all about the story, but how the story connected to them and turned up in their everyday lives.

My oldest son loved The Little Engine That Could. He would ask that I read that to him over and over. The engine's mantra, as the little engine attempts to take a heavy load over a mountain, is “I think I can! I think I can!”

One day when he was riding his tricycle up a steep hill with me walking behind him, I saw him struggling and finally rising off his seat to get more power on the pedals, and then I heard it, first softly and then louder, “I think I can! I think I can!”

Maybe there is non-fiction in the fictional mysteries that I read before bed. I always want to be reminded of those key virtues that I want to have moving around in my soul that Spencer and Hawk embody, a reminder of virtues even though from another world of experience.

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