Putnam has signed its longtime bestselling author Robert B. Parker to a new deal for two books that will feature a new series character. The novel Night Passage, to be published September 1997, will introduce readers to Jesse Stone, a 35-year-old former L.A. homicide detective with a drinking problem who gets hired as chief of police in the small, yet corrupt, Massachusetts town of Paradise. But fans of Parker's popular Spenser character needn't worry: Parker, who is represented by agent Helen Brann, will continue to do that series as well, with the next entry, Small Vices, out on March 31.