SPENSER: PALE KINGS AND PRINCES. Made for TV movie. Lifetime, 02 January 1994. Robert Urich (Spenser), Barbara Williams (Susan Silverman), Avery Brooks (Hawk), Sonja Smits, Ken James, Maurice Dean Wint, Alex Carter. Screenplay: Robert B. Parker and
Joan H. Parker, based on the former’s book of the same title. Director: Vic Sarin.

   The plot is a little thin in this one, but if you like the Spenser books, as I do in general, but as I know some of you don’t, this is about as close to one of the stories that a filmed version is going to get. I say that not because I’ve read the book as well as seen the movie. The truth is, I read the book so long ago I’m simply not able to compare the two.

   No, the reason for saying this is that Robert B. Parker and his wife Joan are the screenwriters, and she was one of several co-producers. If that doesn’t give you some sort of say in how a movie comes out, it’s difficult to say what does.

   One difference that I seem to remember from the book is that when Spenser makes a trip into the mid-central section of Massachusetts — a small hamlet named Wheaton, which probably doesn’t really exist — to look into the death of a investigate reporter who was killed there, in the movie Susan comes with him. In the book, she only commutes back and forth between Wheaton ad Boston. In the the movie, her motivation for staying close on the scene is that the reporter was one of her clients in psychotherapy.

   What this change does, though, is allow the two of them to work on the investigation together while staying in the same small motel room and eating together in the same dingy diner. This gives the a lot more time to indulge in witty banter together, and to give Susan the opportunity to see her man in action, up close and personal.

   And what action means to Spenser, of course, is barging right in, asking questions, and making a general nuisance of himself — and no small number of enemies, a term that applies to the local police force as well as possible local drug lords. Wheaton has a population that has been substantially bolstered in recent years by a influx of refugee Colombians, and when they have been unable to find work, they have turned to dope peddling, or so it has been rumored. This may be the reason behind the reporter’s death — or it may be his non-stop womanizing ways — or perhaps an even more deadly combo of the two.

   Hawk shows up to help the two of them out when things get a little too tight for them on their own. I can’t think of a better actor to play the part than Avery Brooks, but Robert Urich and Barbara Williams have quite a bit of chemistry together as well. I enjoyed this one.