As usual in a Spenser novel, the chief narrative technique is Spenser's witty and sardonic narrative voice, mixing allusions from popular culture, history, literature, with colloquial language and wry wit. Not only is Parker's terse and lively narrative style impressive, but his command of dialogue in Chance is excellent, as is usually the case. Both narrative and dialogue mock the pretenses of Las Vegas, and the volcano which Spenser can view from The Mirage Hotel becomes one major focus of Spenser's ridicule.
It should be noted that one of the moral advantages given to Spenser and Hawk in their battles with the underworld is that invariably they prove to be much wittier than their antagonists, and their repartee destroys the cliches of organized crime which are supposed to be so intimidating. Similarly, their banter also mocks the cliches of political correctness in ways that suggest that their thought is well advanced over the authors of speech codes.
In addition to narrative, Parker makes effective use of dramatic action scenes as in the Commonwealth Avenue shootout and the final encounter between Spenser and Marty Anaheim in the vacant Las Vegas parking lot. Chance sustains its suspense and provides stronger action sequences than some Parker novels.
Approaches to the novel might begin with a discussion of the hard-boiled private detective tradition, as it was actually practiced by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and other competent writers (John D. MacDonald, Ross Mac- Donald). If readers chiefly know the tradition through parodies and spoofs in films (such as Steve Martin's Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid or Dana Carvey's Clean Slate) then they may not be familiar with the central themes of the genre or the values espoused by Raymond Chandler and others. Another approach to the novel might be to explore readers' understanding of organized crime, including the rackets that provide money for crime syndicates, and the things that may happen when there is a struggle for power between mobs.
If neither of these approaches is appealing to a reading group, then an analysis of feminist issues in the novel might be useful. Not only is Susan Silverman to some degree a spokesperson for feminine values, but the plots in Parker novels often involved what might be called women's issues. In this case, the liberating of Bibi Anaheim might qualify as a good theme on which to open a discussion.
1. Why does Spenser take the job offered by Julius Ventura, when he is sure that neither Ventura or Shirley are telling the truth about Anthony?
2. What is Spenser's view of the Boston underworld? What is his opinion of Ventura?
3. What kind of person is Anthony Meeker? What actions indicate his unreliable nature?
4. Describe the relationship between Spenser and Hawk. What bonding rituals seem to link them? What is the purpose of their occasional parodies of discussions about ethnic and racial attitudes?
5. Describe the relationship between Spenser and Susan Silverman. Why is Susan, a psychologist, attracted to Spenser?
6. Compare and contrast Julius Ventura and Marty Anaheim. Does Parker glamorize any of the crime lords Spenser runs into?
7. What influences have handicapped Shirley Ventura and given her a poor preparation for life?
8. How does Bibi Anaheim differ from Shirley Ventura? Why does Bibi have a better chance of beginning a new life after her disastrous marriage to Marty?
9. What does Spenser learn about Bibi's past in his trip to Fairhaven High School, and in his investigation of Abigail Becker?
10. Discuss the role that Las Vegas plays in the novel. What is Spenser's assessment of Las Vegas?
11. Why does Spenser not only want to have Marty Anaheim arrested and convicted of murder, but also want to defeat Marty physically? What other purposes are served by the final confrontation scene between...
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