Netflix movie to star Mark Wahlberg as Robert B. Parker’s Spenser in Ace Atkins’ ‘Wonderland’

Mark Wahlberg is set to play Robert B. Parker's Boston detective Spenser in a series of movies for Netflix.
Mark Wahlberg is set to play Robert B. Parker's Boston detective Spenser in a series of movies for Netflix.
Published July 2, 2018|Updated July 2, 2018

Fans of the late Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels may be seeing his beloved, wisecracking detective on their TV screens again soon.

Netflix has announced a deal with actor Mark Wahlberg, director-producer Peter Berg and the author's estate to make a series of feature films based on Parker's bestselling novels.

The first movie will be based on Wonderland, a 2013 book by former Tampa resident Ace Atkins, who was tapped by the Parker estate to continue the Spenser series after its author died in 2010. Parker wrote 40 novels about the character, and Atkins so far has published eight, so there's plenty of material for the filmmakers to work with.

An ABC TV series, Spenser: For Hire, ran from 1985 to 1988, with Robert Urich in the title role. I met Parker once, during the show's run, and asked him what he thought of the casting. He told me Urich was a good actor but didn't look the part.

When I asked him what Spenser looked like, the rugged Parker replied, "Like me, only taller."

Actor Joe Mantegna also played Spenser in three made-for-TV movies on A&E in 199-2001.

As Spenser, Boston native Wahlberg might just fit. There's no doubt he could handle the tough-guy part of the character, but I'm not sure how apt he is with witty banter.

In a Facebook post Monday, Atkins wrote, "Many have asked how he'll fare as Parker's iconic private eye. Time will tell. But I'm excited he's using the gritty casino tale of Wonderland to kick things off. At least we know he'll have a solid Boston accent."

(Atkins will be a featured author at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading in St. Petersburg on Nov. 17, with the latest Spenser novel, Old Black Magic, and the newest in his Quinn Colson series, The Sinners.)

The city of Boston is an essential setting for the Spenser books, so let's hope Wahlberg and Berg will shoot there. They set their 2016 film Patriots Day, about the Boston Marathon bombing, on location.

Now to the big question: Who will play Spenser's comrade in arms, the madly suave and scary Hawk? I don't suppose Idris Elba is available?