Barbara Parker was the kind of woman people instinctively trusted and liked. I first met her in at Sleuthfest, the writer’s conference sponsored by the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America. I was a rank newbie, and Barbara went out of her way to offer me encouragement and information. She was a small woman with wiry energy. In my memories of her at that conference, she is loading books on a dolly or pushing books on a dolly or unloading books from a dolly, always in motion, always purposeful, always with time for a smile or a quip as she moved.
Before she became a mystery writer, she was an attorney. First as a prosecutor in the Florida state attorney’s office, and then for eight years on her own. But like a lot of us, she had a dream of writing. She also had two kids to support. Barbara did the logical thing: she closed her time-consuming private law office and took a job as a paralegal. The pay was regular, and as she rode the bus to and from work, she could concentrate on fictional characters and plots. Because she had a professional’s approach, she also got into the creative writing program at Florida International University. Her master’s thesis became her first mystery novel. The book was a finalist for the Edgar Allen Poe award for best first mystery, and was made into an ABC Movie of the Week under the title “Sisters and Other Strangers.”
Eleven more novels followed, two of which were on the New York Times best seller list. She did a lot of research for her novels, traveling all over the world to get local color and details. Even with her success, Barbara continued to graciously and generously give of her time and talent to new writers. The last time I saw her was at the Florida Writers Conference where Florida mystery writers gather one weekend a year. We were together on a panel. I don’t remember what the panel was about, but I do remember what Barbara and I giggled about during the lunch break. And that’s how I will always remember her. A bright, brave, funny woman with an insatiable curiosity about the world and human nature.
Barbara died Saturday morning at the Hospice by the Sea in Boca Raton, Florida. She was 62. At her request, friends, fellow writers, and fans who wish to honor her memory may do so by sending donations to the Author Sponsorship Fund, Mystery Writers of America, 1140 Broadway, New York, NY 10001.