they first met at a birthday party when they were 3 and she hit him with a big gob of ice cream. They ran into each other again at the Colby College freshman dance, where Mr. Parker had grown into a wise-mouth greaser with a lit cigarette tucked behind his ear, very cool in those days. He was ''so loathsome,'' she recalled, she would circle the campus to avoid him. They have been married 40 years.And the Parker marriage was very much the inspiration for the Spenser/Susan relationship:
Joan was explaining that their marriage had gone through a series of strains in the late 1970's: a period of separation reflected in ''The Widening Gyre'' (1983) and ''A Catskill Eagle'' (1985). They loved each other, but couldn't live together. Couldn't live apart either, it turned out. They found ''salvation,'' she said, in the big house with a separate staircase entrance and a third-floor apartment where she lives in her own independent fashion, including ordering out. They date regularly and spend weekends together in a 1697 farmhouse they restored in Concord, Mass.
''How can you talk and cook at the same time?'' she demanded, after he added lewd commentary. ''I can't do that.''
''Ah, but you can talk,'' he replied, adding, like Spenser, ''my sweet patootie.''
''Everybody always says, 'So you're Susan Silverman,' '' Joan was saying. ''I'm both flattered and horrified to be Susan Silverman. Sometimes I like her a lot. Sometimes I think she's so pretentious I want to slap her. She's loyal, she's intelligent. I like that. But vain, when she puts on lip gloss before seeing a patient. I hate that.''And then the article has some nice repartee between the two. The good news is that there are somewhere between two and four manuscripts that may still see the light of day. But he will be missed. No doubt about it.