Helen Hunt's Mystery Date: The Actress Asks Robert Parker to Write Her a Detective Novel

By Jones, Malcolm | Newsweek, October 4, 1999 | Go to article overview

Helen Hunt's Mystery Date: The Actress Asks Robert Parker to Write Her a Detective Novel


Jones, Malcolm, Newsweek


Helen Hunt and Robert B. Parker play well together. Sitting on the sofa in her production company's office in West Hollywood, they make nice about each other nonstop. "I fell in love with his books," says the Academy Award-winning actress. "Helen is a good kid," responds the creator of the Spenser detective novels. "And I can call her that because I have kids older than she is." The 36-year-old Hunt and the 67-year-old Parker do look like a mismatched set. But they both know what they want, and right now they both want "Family Honor," Parker's new novel about female gumshoe Sunny Randall, to be a smash. Turning to Hunt, Parker says, "Did I tell you Sunny hits the Times best-seller list at No. 14 this Sunday?" "Holy s--t," she exclaims. "That's incredible," sounding like a kid who just found out she gets to have chocolate cake for breakfast.

You have to understand: Helen Hunt is Sunny Randall. Or she will be. So far Sunny is merely the protagonist of Parker's 34th book. But he created this character specifically for Hunt, at her request. Last year, after she'd won her Oscar and was able to do pretty much what she wanted, she decided she wanted Parker to write a book for her. A man who has 5 million copies of his books in print does not do anything he doesn't want to, but Parker took the meeting out of curiosity. He also took his wife, Joan, along, and as he remembers it, Helen and Joan mostly talked about their dogs while Parker wondered aloud, "Is there a deal here someplace?" There was--as soon as he found out Hunt wanted him to write not a screenplay but a novel. "Then I said, 'Yes!' " So Parker created Sunny Randall, and Sony bought the rights to "Family Honor" for Hunt, and if all goes well Sunny will become a franchise, like James Bond.

"Family Honor" (Putnam. $22.95) is a first-rate piece of entertainment. Sunny Randall is a Boston private detective who paints on the side, can't cook, owns a miniature bull terrier and has a weird relationship with an ex-husband that she's sorta maybe kinda--OK, definitely--still in love with. Sunny is, in the words of her sidekick, the gay waiter and karate expert Spike, "shooter, shrink, painter and sex symbol. …

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