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PEOPLE IN BRIEF: 'Spenser' writer Robert Parker dies at age 77

BOSTON -- Robert B. Parker, the blunt and beloved crime novelist who helped revive and modernize the hard-boiled genre and branded a tough guy of his own through his ''Spenser'' series, has died. He was 77.

The cause of death was unclear. An ambulance was sent to Parker's home in Cambridge on Monday morning after reports of a sudden death, said Alexa Manocchio, spokeswoman for the Cambridge police department.

Parker's longtime agent, Helen Brann, said that the author's widow, Joan, called her Monday right after finding him dead at his desk.

''They had had breakfast together Monday, and he was perfectly fine,'' Brann said. ''She went out to do her running and when she came back about an hour later, he was dead. We were in a complete state of shock and still cannot quite believe it.''

Prolific to the end, Parker wrote more than 50 novels, including 37 featuring Boston private eye Spenser. The character's first name was a mystery, with his last name emphatically spelled with an ''s'' in the middle, not a ''c.''

The character was the basis for the 1980s TV series ''Spenser: For Hire,'' starring Robert Urich. Parker later said the only thing he liked about the program was the residual checks.

NBC chief: Leno late-night return the right move

NEW YORK -- NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker said Jay Leno's return to late-night television is the right financial move.

NBC is ending its prime-time ''The Jay Leno Show'' because of low ratings and affiliate station complaints. An exit deal with Conan O'Brien, which is expected this week, would clear the way for Leno to reclaim the slot occupied by ''The Tonight Show,'' which he hosted for 17 years.

In an interview Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal, Zucker said it isn't surprising that O'Brien is disappointed that NBC wanted to move his show to a later time slot. But Zucker said it was surprising and disappointing ''how nasty it turned.''

Zucker said the network wanted to keep O'Brien. But he said NBC is ''going to be fine, even paying Conan to go away.''