A Catskill Eagle  
Series Spenser
Publisher Delacorte Press
Publication date 1985
Media type hardcover
ISBN 0-385-29385-2
Preceded by Valediction
Followed by Taming a Sea Horse

Cover InformationEdit

"For Joan"

Taken from the back cover of the paperback edition

"In the detective business, Spenser sometimes had to bend the law. Other times, he broke it. But he lived by his own inviolate rules. He didn't kill unless he had to. He helped a friend in trouble. And he loved just one woman, even though she was the one woman he'd just lost.

So when Susan's desperate letter arrived, Spenser didn't think twice. His best friend Hawk faced a life sentence in a California jail. And Susan had gotten herself into even bigger trouble. Now Spenser had to free them both...even if it meant breaking his own rules to do it.

[now THIS is a decent back cover blurb! -ed]

Recurring CharactersEdit

  • Hawk spends most of the story right beside Spenser, trying to find Susan. The gruesome twosome...
  • Vince Haller puts in a brief appearance as Spenser's lawyer (and he's gonna need one, too!).
  • Henry Cimoli rigs up a cast for Spenser to smuggle a gun in.
  • Paul Giacomin has a brief phone conversation with Spenser.
  • Rachel Wallace uses her skills at research to help Spenser locate the Costigans.
  • Lt. Quirk helps arrange a deal with various three-letter organizations to get Spenser out of several jams.
  • Belson pops up when Quirk does.
  • Hugh Dixon helps out with some cash, as he promised in The Judas Goat, and Lin is still employed as his servant.

Literary References, or "The Annotated Gumshoe"Edit

Title Significance: "And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than the other birds upon the plain, even though they soar." - Herman Melville, Moby Dick [1851] Contributor Simone Hochreiter notes that is comes at the end of chapter 96.

My guess is that Spenser is the eagle, and in the course of rescuing Susan, he does some pretty low things (murder, arson, theft, etc), but since he's doing them for a good cause (mainly Susan's well-being), that he's still better than your common criminal who might do all of those things. Anyone else care to comment?

Chapter 4:

  • "I'm singing to the coon." - And the song he was singing was Civilization (Bongo, Bongo, Bongo), originally performed by the Andrew Sisters and Danny Kaye in 1947. Thanks to Dan Addy for reminding me to include the full Lyrics

Chapter 9:

  • "Hell is other people" - Jean Paul Sartre, Huis-Clois (No Exit) [1944], scene 5.

Chapter 11:

  • "Tar baby sit and don't say nuffin'" - Uncle Remus
  • Joel Chandler Harris collected folk tales and dialects from the rural south and wrote a series of books in which an old black man, known as Uncle Remus, would tell the stories to a little boy. The first of an eventual six volumes was published in the 1920's and the protagonist was usually Br'er Rabbit, who would outsmart other forest creatures who wanted to make a meal of him ("Br'er" was a contraction of "brother", while "Uncle" was the polite way to address a "person of color.")
  • Thanks to MMedic for pointing out that "young boy", as I previously worded the above, is a tautology. The original text does indeed say "little."

Chapter 13:

  • "A family crest with lions rampant and all of that. There was a Latin inscription and the name COSTIGAN on a scroll across the bottom." Iain Campbell did some research on this one:
It mentions in Eagle that Jerry has the family escutcheon and motto above the fireplace, so I went looking to see what they might be, always aware that RBP loves to play games with us.
There are variants, but essentially it features a helmet (as in armour) above and a lion on the shield. The lion refers to fierce courage and strength (Hmm..) and the helmet to wisdom (I guess it was smart to keep your helmet on)
There are a couple of different mottoes, since of course there are different branches of the Costigans, but the one I found most ironic was "Virtute et Fidelitate" Might be loosely translated as "By courage and faithfulness", but in fact it is more. "Virtus" does not mean "virtue" (Though "civic virtue" might be closer) but really the quality of being a "vir", a MAN, a Mensch. One of the things to which neither Jerry nor Rusty can lay claim.

I couldn't find any pictures with the motto but this will give you some idea:
  • "Was there a lady in there? Or a tiger?" - Frank Richard Stockton, The Lady or the Tiger? [1884] (paraphrased, the original quote was: "Which came out of the opened door--the lady or the tiger?"
  • "What would Clausewitz call this? A stalemate." - Clausewitz wrote On War in 1832.

Chapter 14:

Chapter 15:

  • "Only where love and need are one / and the work is play for mortal stakes." - See Oft Quoted and Poetry

Chapter 16:

Chapter 17:

  • "The hills alive with the sound of music, babe" - paraphrased (in the way only Hawk can) from Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics to The Sound of Music, from the 1965 musical of the same name: "The hills are alive with the sound of music." See Lyrics

Chapter 21:

  • "The ghost who walks." - Making reference to The Phantom, a comic strip which has been around for over 60 years. The scam is that each successive son dons the same costume and keeps alive the rumor that he is immortal, hence "the ghost who walks." I found a good article at

Chapter 23:

  • "Happy Trails." - Iain Campbell reminds me not to overlook the obvious on this one. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans had a TV show back in the 50's when westerns were the rage. At the end the two of them would ride off into the camera singing that song. See Lyrics

Chapter 25:

  • "Do you remember what somebody said about rich people? That they are different?" - paraphrased from F. Scott Fitzgerald . "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful." - The Rich Boy [1926].
To which Ernest Hemingway mockingly replied, in his story The Snows of Kilimanjaro, "Yes, they have more money."
  • "The ways of the Lord are often dark, but never pleasant" - See Oft Quoted.

Chapter 39:

  • "Many years ago someone sent in the following suggestion: "In the very beginning of Chapter 39, Spenser says, "We could skip killing Costigan... and concentrate on recovering the stuff we left in Pequod." FBI agent replies, "Not funny, McGee."
  • McGee is a reference to Travis McGee, a character in a series of novels by John MacDonald. McGee's schtick was recovery; he would recover anything you needed, and keep half its value as payment. (While this was a reasonable enough guess I have to go with the opinion of later writers. Steven Rubio replied: Always possible, of course, but I don't think that's what's going on here. I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure one of the catchphrases on the long-running radio comedy, "Fibber McGee and Molly" would come when Fibber would say something silly. Molly would reply, "T'aint funny, McGee." And Joe Barron not only agrees but provides further detail: It's a reference to "Fibber McGee and Molly", an old-time radio sitcom. Molly's famous catchphrase "Taint funny, McGee" was the "Don't have a cow, man" of the 40s.)

Chapter 40:

  • "There's a book by a guy named Leslie Fiedler..." - It's Come Back to the Raft Ag'in Huck Honey! and implies suppressed homosexuality between Huck and Jim, and in fact all black-white male bonding. He doesn't make a very good argument.
I have read the above and it seemed a pretty good source to me, but in a web interview Dr. Parker stated that he came across it in another work: "Leslie Feidler in Love and Death in the American Novel, which was really long, suggests that this is probably a repressed homoeroticism and that the racial divide between the two keeps the homoeroticism from emerging. I find the white-nonwhite companionship interesting; I have no particular suspicion that it's homoerotic. I want to say this about Mr. Fiedler. I think he was wrong about that. And if you see him, you tell him I said that, and you explain to him who the hell I am."
  • "Mongo Santamaria." - Spenser has always been a bit behind the times in his musical tastes. Mongo's version of jazz is much more modern, and in fact was way ahead of its time. Personally, I would have asked Hawk to lend me a set of headphones.
  • "Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession" - Susan is reading the book by Janet Malcomb. I note that the author has been accused in an review "of underlying and (in my view) childish reverence for Freud and analysis." As I mentioned above Dr. Freud has fallen out of favor nowadays.
  • "Hello Jocasta." - In Oedipus Rex ("Oedipus the King"), a tragedy written by Sophocles in the 4th century BC, Oedipus kills the old king (Laius) and marries the queen (Jacosta,) not knowing that they are his dad and mom. She kills herself, he pokes his own eyes out, and it all ends rather badly. Go figure.

Chapter 44:

  • "Shangri-la" - From the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton. An earthly paradise cut off from the world and time; it's an idea as old as civilization. To paraphrase Shakespeare: "Get thee to a lamasery."

Chapter 45:

  • "an enigma wrapped in a mystery" - paraphrased from Winston Churchill's radio broadcast [1 October, 1939]: "It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." He was talking about Russia.
  • "Wendell Willkie." - A lawyer who ran against Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940 and lost. I didn't find an an exact reference to "citizen of the world" and the only speech of his I found online has disappeared. Fortunately Malette Poole (who, God help him, did a senior thesis on the guy) sent in the following:
After failing to unseat Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election, Wilkie became one of FDR's most unlikely allies. To the chagrin of many in his party, Wilkie called for greater national support for some of Roosevelt's controversial initiatives, such as the Lend-Lease Act, and embarked on a new campaign to awaken America from its isolationist slumber. On July 23, 1941, he urged unlimited aid to Britain in its struggle against Nazi Germany. That same year he traveled to Britain and the Middle East as FDR's personal representative and, in 1942, visited the USSR and China in the same capacity. In 1943, Wilkie wrote One World, a plea for international peacekeeping after the war. Extremely popular, the book sold millions of copies and helped to bring the U.S. out of its isolationist slumber. Also in 1943, together with Eleanor Roosevelt and other Americans concerned about the mounting threats to peace and democracy, Wilkie helped to establish Freedom House.
  • "Because they are there" - Hisao Tomihari found this one. See Oft Quoted

Chapter 46:

  • "My son right or wrong but still my son." - The earliest versions of this paraphrase I could track down were Steven Decatur "Our country, right or wrong" and John Quincy Adams "May our country always be successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right," both from 1816.

Chapter 49:

  • "Step into my parlor" - said the spider to the fly. :-)
  • "Is there any chance that Russell might have been found on a hillside with his ankles pierced?" - That is how Laius left Oedipus, intending his death.
Dennis Tallett wrote in to provide details: "The Messenger found him 'I loosed you, the tendon of your feet were pierced and fettered.' Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, Line 1034."

Chapter 50:

  • "Not of woman born" - a reference to MacDuff's method of birth in Shakespeare's MacBeth [1606], Act V, scene 7, line 44: "MacDuff was from his mother's womb untimely ripp'd," and a comparison to Spenser's evident birth by caesarian section.

Chapter 52:

  • "Reddy Kilowatt" - Your electric company is not some massive monolith out to gouge every last dime out of your pocket. They are your friend, and this cheerful cartoon character was created to help you appreciate that fact. Of course, he has gone on to bigger and better things; the little guy is
"a trademark now owned exclusively by Northern States Power Company, a familiar warm and endearing symbol in the electric industry. His distinguishing features include a red, lightning-bolt body and light-bulb nose."
Let's see how long it takes their lawyers to issue a cease and desist order for this unauthorized usage. Of course by then I hope to have tracked down some R. Crumb artwork.
  • "Life its own self." - Parker enjoys reading books about sports and this one eluded me, but Joel Zimmerman was familiar with it:
"From the 1984 book of the same name by Dan Jenkins. Sports fiction, follow-up novel to Semi-Tough. 'I guess you could say we were laughing at life its ownself...' The quote is from the last page. I know that Billy Clyde Puckett talks about life its ownself somewhere else in the book, probably with a better quote, but I could not find it with a quick skim."
  • "feeling for the possibility that a cavern measureless to man might open beneath me and I would plummet down to a sunless sea." - A reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Kubla Khan [1798]: "Where Alph, the sacred river ran / Through caverns measureless to man / down to a sunless sea." See Poetry.
  • "Into the belly of the beast." - Looks like Jonah 1:17 to me, but I'm not sure.
  • "Would I have to cross a river? Would there be a dog with several heads?" - a reference to the river Styx and the three-headed dog Kerberos from Greek mythological descriptions of the entrance to the land of the dead.
  • "The door opened and I stepped through the looking glass." - reference to Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll.
  • Philosopher Iain Campbell wrote me the following regarding this chapter: "Comment and discussion as to river. In the tunnel, RBP really mixes his metaphors. Spenser is Jonah, descending into the belly of the beast. Spenser is Hercules or Orpheus, descending into the Underworld, wondering about crossing a river (the Acheron) and nervous about Cerberus ("dog with several heads"). Could be Dante too, who followed along the same path some time later and who is mentioned in the next chapter. That would confirm the river as the Acheron and not the Styx, as quoted on the site. (The Greeks seemed to have a lot of rivers to cross, Lethe, Styx, Acheron...Hawk would be more comfortable perhaps with the Jordan?) I like Hercules for S. Spenser is compared to a salamander, creature who lives in the dark in tunnels. And Spenser becomes Alice, as he steps thru the looking glass. So many roles, so little time!"
Lethe is a body of water in the center of the underworld which the dead drink of and forget all thoughts of a previous existence. It is the root of the English word "lethal" and the key to Jubal Harshaw's locked drawer of a suicide drug in "Stranger in a Strange Land."
The rivers down there depend upon your source. Here's what I came up with:
  • "Beach the vessel beside deep-eddying Okeanos and pass on foot to the dank domains of Hades. At the entrance there, the stream of Akheron is joined by the waters of Pyriphlegethon and a branch of Styx, Kokytos." -Odyssey 10.513-515
  • "Once is enough to have beheld the unlovely realm of Hell, once to have gone across the stream of Styx." -Metamorphoses 14.593
  • "He [Herakles] was sent to Hades the gate keeper to fetch horrible Hades' watchdog from Erebos, he never should have escaped the steep streams of the Stygian river." -Iliad 8.368-369

Meanwhile, in the Spenser UniverseEdit

  • Spenser has cut his coffee intake down to emergencies only, or so he says. Since this whole book constitutes one big emergency, I guess we can forget about him cutting back on coffee for this book.
  • Spenser was born in Laramie, Wyoming, by caesarian section. His mother died giving birth to him, so he was raised by his father and two uncles, who were all carpenters.
  • Susan's relationship with Russell Costigan is a real and serious one. It started as a gesture of freedom and maturity on Susan's part, but developed over time. Giving Russell up was probably the hardest thing Susan ever did, except for maybe leaving Spenser in the first place.
  • When Spenser returned from California (cf. A Savage Place), he needed more support from Susan, support for his failure to keep Candy Sloan alive. It was too much for Susan and she began to distance herself from him. It ultimately led to her moving out west and this whole business with the Costigans.
  • There's not much to do in Pequod, Connecticut (note that Captain Ahab sailed a ship by that name) so Spenser gets in some reading:
    • The March of Folly (From Troy to Vietnam) by Barbara W. Tuchman.
    • One Writer's Beginnings by Eudora Welty.
    • The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck.

Favorite LinesEdit

Chapter 2: What's the world coming to when you can't find a Republican?

"A kid with tie-dyed hair strolled by wearing a white plastic vest and soft boots like Peter Pan. He had no shirt on and his chest was white and hairless and thin. He glanced at himself covertly in the store windows, filled with the pleasure of his outlandishness. He was probably hoping to scare a Republican, though in Kenmore Square they were sparse between ball games."

Chapter 3: Uh, he's been kinda busy for the past year or so...

"At Hertz I got a Buick Skylark with the window crank handle missing on the driver's side. Where was O.J. when you needed him."
That's the trouble with making time-sensitive joke headers. Nowadays he swings his 5 iron through sand traps and out-of-bounds shrubbery searching for the elusive killer. Fortunately, the cuts to his hand have healed nicely.

Chapter 3: How to get arrested in Mill River, California

"I pulled in, shut off the Buick, took my bottle of muscatel and rinsed my mouth out a couple of times. The wine tasted like tile cleaner. But it smelled bad...As soon as I came into public view I began to weave, my head down, mumbling to myself. It is not easy to mumble to yourself if you don't feel moved to mumble. I didn't know what to mumble and finally began to mumble the starting lineup for the impossible-dream Red Sox team of '67. 'Rico Petrocelli,' I mumbled, 'Carl Yastrzemski...Jerry Adair.'
I sat on the front steps of the town library and took a swig from my bottle, blocking the bottle neck with my tongue so I didn't have to swallow any. What I was going to do didn't get easier if I did it drunk.
'Mike Andrews...Reggie Smith...' I blew my nose with my naked hand and wiped it across my shirt. 'Hawk Harrelson...Tony C.' I raised my voice. 'Jose goddammned Tartabull,' I snarled. Up at the town hall a black and white Mill River Police car turned out of the parking lot in front and cruised slowly down toward the library.
I stood and smashed the muscatel bottle against the steps.
'Joe Foy,' I said with cold fury in my voice. Then I unzipped my fly and began to take a leak on the lawn. Provocative. The cruiser pulled in beside me before I had finished and a Mill River cop in a handsome tan uniform got out and walked toward me....'Hold it right there, mister,' he said.
I giggled. 'Am holding it right there, officer.' I lurched a little and smothered a belch.
The cop was in front of me now. 'Zip it up,' he snapped. 'There's women and children here.'
I zipped my fly about halfway. 'Women and children first,' I said.
'You got some ID on you?' the cop said.
I fumbled in my hip pocket, and then at my other hip pocket and then at my side pockets. I looked at the cop, squinting to bring him into focus.
'I wish to report a stolen wallet,' I said, speaking the words carefully like a man trying not to be drunk."

Chapter 6: A different kind of A.P.B.

"Hawk spoke into his clenched hand. 'All units,' he said, 'be on the lookout for gorgeous Afro-American stud in company of middle-aged honkie thug.'"

Chapter 6: Would it help if he sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot?"

"'You leaving the bag?' Hawk said.
'Yeah, less conspicuous.'
'How bout I carry it on my head and walk behind you.'
'Probably be a good cover,' I said, 'but it might perpetuate a racial stereotype.'"

Chapter 6: I think they were concentrating on the donuts...

"A black and white San Francisco Police car stopped out front and two cops got out and came into the restaurant...They got coffee and French-twist donuts to go and left.
'Probably looking for a gorgeous Afro-American and a middle-aged honkie,' I said. 'No wonder they didn't make us.'"

Chapter 7: The importance of anonymity

Hawk and I got in back with Meg. Fay sat up front with the cabbie.
'What are your names?' Meg said.
'Frick,' I said.
'Frack,' Hawk said.
Meg nodded seriously. 'I'll remember by rhyming them,' she said. 'Frack as in black.'
'And Frick as in prick,' Fay said from the front seat. The cabbie laughed and pulled away."

Chapter 11: It's the economy. Times are tough...

"While Hawk drove I canvassed the briefcase...We were back on 101 south of the airport when I finished.
'Eleven thousand, five hundred, and seventy-eight dollars,' I said.
'Eight bucks?' Hawk said. 'Who pays a whore eight bucks? "Give you round-the-world for thirty-eight big ones, honey."'
'The pocket money from Allie's wallet, probably,' I said.
'He looks like a guy carries eight bucks,' Hawk said."

Chapter 11: The joy of disguise

'You get some horn-rimmed glasses,' Hawk said, 'and shave off that five-day growth you might get by using those cards and licenses. You preppy like Leo.'
'I'll leave the beard,' I said. 'They'll think I've grown a beard since the picture and it will cover up the fact that I have a strong manly jaw and Leo's is weak and unassertive.'"

Chapter 11: Wait, don't they have an Army academy called The Citadel?

"'Remember where Mill River Boulevard is?' I said.
'Un huh.'
'Jerry Costigan lives off it on something called Costigan Drive in something called The Keep.'
'The Keep?' Hawk said.
'The Keep.'
'The more money you honkies get,' Hawk said, 'the sillier you get.'
'Wait a minute,' I said. 'Didn't you grow up in a place called The Ghetto?'
'Shit,' Hawk said. 'You got me.'
'See, you intolerant bastard.'
Hawk drove quietly for a moment and then he began to laugh. 'Maybe I move to Beverly Farms,' Hawk said, 'buy a big house call it The Ghetto.' He made ghetto a two-word phrase.
'The WASPS would turn lime green,' I said.
'Match their pants,' Hawk said."

Chapter 11: Spenser's tips for would-be heroes, #31

"The weight of our guns tended to tug at our pants. They'd removed our belts at Mill River PD.
'Next stop,' I said softly to Hawk across the narrow road, 'we gotta get belts.'
'Rescuing maidens suck if your trousers fall down,' Hawk said.
'Didn't Sir Gawain say that?'"

Chapter 11: Uncle Remus Cliff's Notes for gumshoes

"'We need to get him out,' Hawk said. 'But we don't want to do it with a big ruckus 'cause we only want him.'
'The tar baby,' I said.
'You speaking to me,' Hawk said.
'You ever read Uncle Remus?' I said.
'You gotta be shitting,' Hawk said.
'Br'er rabbit and the tar baby,' I said. '"Tar baby sit and don't say nuffin."'
Hawk was quiet, watching the guardhouse.
'I'm going to go out and sit in the road and wait for him to come out and see what the hell I'm doing.'
I walked slowly up the road directly toward the gate, and when I was about ten feet from it I sat down in the road and folded my hands in my lap with the gun out of sight and stared at the gate.
The guard came out of the guardhouse and looked at me through the gate.
'You hear me?' he said. 'What are you doing out there?'
Tar baby sit and don't say nuffin.
The guard took a big breath. 'Shit,' he said, and opened the gate. As he walked toward me he took a leather sap from his right-hand hip pocket.
When he got to me he said, 'Okay, pal, last chance. Either you get on your feet and haul ass out of here, or I put a knot on your head while you sit.'
I unfolded my hands and pointed the .25 straight up at him as he bent over me. 'How dee doo, Br'er Bear,' I said.'
The guard did what I told him to. I kept the gun near my body and the guard between me and the gate in case someone came down and saw us. At the edge of the road I said, 'Step ahead of me into the woods.' Five feet into the woods Hawk was leaning against a tree. When we reached him he hit the guard across the back of the head with the jack handle. The guard grunted once and fell forward. He lay still except for his right leg, which twitched slightly.
'Br'er tire iron,' Hawk said."

Chapter 12: Is there such a thing as a sap handicap?

"Hawk stepped across Rocky's prone position and sapped Bob. Bob lurched forward off the stool and took a staggering step and Hawk hit him again and he pitched forward, toward the monitor panels. I caught him before he hit them and guided him to the floor.
'Twice?' I said.
'It's an unfamiliar blackjack,' Hawk said. 'Ain't got the feel quite right."

Chapter 12: The importance of being Susan

"'We after Susan," Hawk said. "That makes this your show. But I ain't along on this just 'cause I care about you.'
'I know,' I said. 'I know that. It's the way I know you're human.'
'She make both of us human, babe," Hawk said. 'I don't want to lose her much more than you do.'"

Chapter 14: Career choices

"'How the Christ did we end up here,' I said.
'I the victim of sociological forces,' Hawk said.
'You're a goddamned leg breaker because of racism?' I said.
'No, I a leg breaker 'cause the hours are short and the pay is good. I end up here 'cause I hanging around with a middle-aged honkie thug."

Chapter 18: Breakfast blues

"'Have some trail mix,' I said.
Hawk took a handful of trail mix and chewed it without pleasure.
'I look like fucking trail mix to you?' he said. 'I look like a fucking granola bar? I eggs Benedict, and mimosa, I room service, man.'
'The rain is nice,' I said.
'Refreshing,' Hawk said.
Along with the woodsmoke I could smell coffee, from the lodge.
'If they start to fry bacon in there,' I said, 'I'm going to cry.'"

Chapter 20: Weasel food

"'You ever been to the Spokane airport?' Hawk said.
'They got food there?'
'Sort of.'
'Good. I ain't had anything since breakfast yesterday except that goddamned weasel food you bought.'
'Weasels don't eat granola,' I said. 'Weasels are carnivores.'
'So am I,' Hawk said. 'And I don't want to eat no more fucking seeds and dates.'
'Nuts too,' I said. 'Hazel nuts.'
'Let Hazel worry 'bout them,' Hawk said. 'I'm getting me a mess of good boondock airport food.'
'Probably get a meal on the plane too,' I said.
'Lawzy me,' Hawk said, 'I done died and gone to heaven.'"

Chapter 22: Mulder & Scully ain't nearly as paranoid as these guys

"McKinnon said, 'McKinnon, FBI. This is Ives.'
Ives looked like a salt cod. He was lean and weathered and gray-haired. His raincoat was open and under it I could see a green bow tie with little pink pigs on it.
'I'm with the three-letter agency,' he said.
'You with the Tennessee Valley Authority,' I said. 'Well damn, I always wanted to meet someone like you. TVA is my favorite.'
'Not TVA,' Ives said.
'He's with the fucking CIA,' Quirk said.
When Quirk said the sacred letters Ives looked uncomfortable, like he was fighting the impulse to turn his coat collar up.
He said, 'Let's not broadcast it, Lieutenant.'
Hawk said in a full voice, 'Broadcast what?' and Quirk looked away, trying not to smile."

Chapter 22: Good deeds don't go unrewarded...

"'When the arrest warrants for you two started flowing in from California, he [Quirk. -ed] came in to see me. See if we could do anything to get your ass out of the crack, you know? I'd been talking with other people'--he nodded at Ives--'about their problem with Costigan and I got hold of them, and here we are.'
Hawk looked at Quirk and raised his eyebrows. 'I knowed that, I give you two bites of my toast.'"

Chapter 24: That Hawk, always seeing the bright side of things...

"'You really a lesbian,' Hawk said.
'I really am,' Rachel Wallace said.
'Well,' Hawk said, 'save money on diaphragms I guess.'
Rachel Wallace, halfway into a sip of Scotch, burst into laughter and nearly spilled all of her drink. Hawk grinned. This time there was warmth. I patted Rachel Wallace on the back until stopped choking on the half-swallowed whiskey.
'Hawk has that special insight into minority situations,' I said."

Chapter 26: The joy of travel

"'Connecticut,' he said when I was through. 'Christ. We should have enrolled in one of those frequent flyer programs when this started. Get ourselves a free trip to Dallas or something.'
'Second prize is two free trips to Dallas,' I said."

Chapter 28: Being a Connecticut native, I probably should take exception to this, but then again, I've eaten in places like this before...

Hawk looked at his plate and then at me. The steaks were wide and flat, covering nearly the whole plate, and about a half-inch thick at best. There was a large bone in each steak.
'Better wait and drink the second martini,' I said.
'What kind of steak you figure this is,' Hawk said.
Hawk nodded. 'Well, we didn't exactly say beef steak, did we.'
The waitress brought the second martinis. Hawk and I each drank some.
'Gin,' we said simultaneously.
'We could send them back,' Hawk said.
'Yeah, but the next one might be made with Kool-Aid,' I said."

Chapter 28: ...must use this power only for good...

"Red and I locked left hands.
'I'll call it,' Red said.
Red said, 'Go,' and I slammed his hand down onto the lit cigarette. The force scattered the cigarettes.
'Wait a minute,' he said. 'Wait a minute. I wasn't ready.'
'Okay,' I said. 'We'll do it again. You call.'
We locked hands again. Red took in a couple of deep breaths.
'All right,' Red said. 'When I say go.'
Red's grip tightened and he tried to turn my wrist.
'You ready?' I said.
Red nodded, straining against my wrist.
'You sure?'
'Okay,' I said and slammed his hand against the table.
The waitress arrived with a tray of beer bottles and there was silence while she distributed them and picked up the empties. She went away.
'Where the fuck did you guys come from,' Red said. You guys got to be from another fucking planet.'
'It's because our hearts are pure,' I said."

Chapter 29: Tolerance is everything...

"His face had reddened and for the first time his speech began to slur a little. If I'd had that many boilermakers they could iron clothes on me."

Chapter 31: It's so often religion can get in the way...

"On the thirteenth day, Hawk said, 'I think I in love with Doreen.'
'Don't blame you,' I said.
'How you feel about interracial marriage,' Hawk said.
'Against the law of God,' I said.
'You sure?' Hawk said.
'Says right in the Bible,' I said. 'Thou shalt not marry a spook.'
'Shit,' Hawk said, 'you right. I remember that part. How 'bout I just fuck her?'
'Far as I know that's okay,' I said."

Chapter 39: The old Puritan work ethic

"Ives frowned and looked at me hard. 'You work too hard at being a wise guy, Lochinvar.'

'It's worth the effort,' I said.

'Man ain't lazy,' Hawk said."

Chapter 41: Law enforcement is definitely going downhill

"'Okay,' I said. 'Thanks.'
'Oh shit,' Quirk said. 'No need for thanks. The entire City of Boston Police Department is at your disposal. We've decided to give up crime-stopping altogether.'
'Probably just as well,' I said. 'You weren't making that much progress anyway.'
'And you, hot shot?'
'Less,' I said."

Chapter 42: Masters of disguise

"'You figure they know what we look like,' Hawk said.
'Probably got descriptions. Maybe pictures. Costigan owns Mill River and they had pictures of us.'
'Or maybe they just got orders to blast every handsome black man they see with an ugly honkie.'
'We'd be safe,' I said."

Chapter 42: Ancient Chinese secrets...

"'What do you suppose he's got in the gym bag?'
'Sophisticated kung fu weapons,' Hawk said. 'Like maybe a Uzi.'
'Or a sawed-off,' I said. 'Where's Bruce Lee when you really need him.'"

Chapter 45: Dining with Fred Flintstone and Calista Flockhart

"She ate her club sandwich by taking off the top slice of bread and nibbling on the ingredients one at a time. I could eat a brontosaurus in the time it took her to eat a club sandwich that way."

Chapter 45: They're taking over...

"'He is also a white supremacist'
'Him too,' Hawk murmured.
Rachel Wallace smiled. 'And an anti-Semite. He seems to believe that America is in danger of being overrun by blacks and Jews and foreigners and' - she smiled again - 'lesbians.'
'The lesbians are arming?' I said.
'And gay men,' she said, 'and feminists, and the IRS.'
'How about the worldwide Roman Catholic conspiracy,' I said.
'You get the idea,' Rachel Wallace said. 'Costigan appears to be fearful that America will be overrun by Americans.'"
(thanks to Jonathan Andrew Sheen, who suggested this one)

Chapter 47: Overconfidence? Nahhhh

""I need a drink,' Rachel Wallace said. 'Or maybe twelve.'
'I go out and get a bottle,' Hawk said. 'Stretch my legs.'
'Why not have it sent up,' Rachel Wallace said. 'You might be spotted.'
Hawk looked at her as if she'd said the world was flat.
'Or someone might follow you back here,' Rachel Wallace said.
Hawk looked at her as if she had just fallen off the edge of the world."

Chapter 48: Yeah, but try getting it out the door once it's finished

"The house was still. It was so big it would seem still if someone were building a nuclear submarine in the other wing."

Chapter 52: Joy is relative

"My foot hit the edge of a drop. I stopped, pulled back. Stairs? Bottomless pit? I guessed stairs. I dropped on my stomach and inched forward. A guy paranoid enough to build this underground fortress, and then a private escape hatch, was paranoid enough to booby trap it coming in. I dropped my hands over the edge and felt. A stair. I reached farther. Another stair. I stood and felt along the wall and stepped one step down. There was a railing. I hung on to it. A railing. Life was good. I held the railing with both hands and took another step. And another. Joy is relative. Right now the railing was better than sex and almost as good as love."


  • Chapter 6: Two donuts and two coffees at a donut shop.
  • Chapter 8:
Skippy peanut butter on pale white bread at the prostitutes' place.

White toast and Kraft strawberry jam for supper.

  • Chapter 10: Buffalo stew, sourdough rolls, and coleslaw at Tommy's Joynt.
  • Chapter 14: Coffee and English muffins
  • Chapter 16: Two eggs, sunny side, ham, home fries, toast, and coffee at a diner.
  • Chapter 18: Granola and trail mix out in the woods.
  • Chapter 20: Two hamburgers and a coffee at the Spokane Airport.
  • Chapter 21: Fried egg sandwich on whole wheat toast at Yvonne's.
  • Chapter 28: A steak dinner from Hell at Pequod House.
  • Chapter 38: Whole wheat croissants from Bread and Circus, and an orange.
  • Chapter 40: Breakfast ala Susan: Cornbread, Cranshaw melon, muenster cheese, green seedless grapes.
  • Chapter 45: Club sandwich at the hotel.


  • Chapter 1: Steinlager from New Zealand at home.
  • Chapter 8: Jug wine at the prostitutes' place.
  • Chapter 10: Anchor Steam beer at Tommy's Joynt.
  • Chapter 20: Implied he would have some Steinlager at Yvonne's.
  • Chapter 23: Beer at the safe house.
  • Chapter 24: Scotch with Rachel Wallace.
  • Chapter 28: Vodka martini, then another with gin (not what he ordered.). Beers after dinner.
  • Chapter 29: Beers with Red at Pequod House.
  • Chapter 31: Pabst Blue Ribbon, 34 long necks over 12 days.
  • Chapter 33: Beer at Pequod House.
  • Chapter 44: Beer with sandwiches in the hotel room.
  • Chapter 45: Beer in the hotel room.
  • Chapter 48: Brandy with Hugh Dixon.
  • Chapter 50: Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir at the Idanha dining room.
  • Chapter 55: Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs Champagne in bed at Spenser's. Hawk sent them a case.


  • Minor gaffe: In chapter 46, Susan is described as saying about Jerry Costigan: "He doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke." Yet in chapter 13, we find Jerry Costigan sipping a glass of port. Recreational use? Social drinking? Mistake? Nothing really important, but I thought I'd mention it.
  • This is the earliest novel in which I caught Parker deviating from his use of "he/she said" in phrasing a sentence. See what I mean on a page I call You Don't Say
  • In Chapter 24 Hawk straightens out Rachel Wallace (if you'll pardon the expression) about her seeing him as Spenser's sidekick. Parker is making a point about the relationship between these too guys that many people still don't understand. It's mutual respect. Hawk doesn't follow orders from Spenser, he goes along because his friend asks him to, and he usually (but not always) allows for Spenser's soft-heartedness.
  • Oops: Contributor Brenda Powell points out a glaring error in Chapter 40. While talking at the safe house Spenser notes of Susan "Her eyes were very blue and large."
  • Blue-eyed? Susan? Nonsense, her eyes are dark; in fact the first time he met her in God Save the Child he called them black. Good catch, Brenda.
  • Oops2: Okay, who wasn't paying attention here? Dr. Parker, his copy editors and I all missed this one, but Iain Campbell writes the following:
"At the end of Chapter 46, we have Spenser and Hawk proving that boxers don't have to count past ten. Mathematicians they are not. If one sets out from Mill River at 50 mph and drives for 12 hours, one travels 600 miles. In the next line, Spenser slips up and says that it is sixteen miles! Then Hawk calculates the area of a circle of radius 600 miles as 3,600 square miles (this is 60 squared, not 600 squared...) Now 360,000 is 600 squared, but he still hasn't multiplied by 3.1416 to get the final area of 1,130,976 square miles. Probably just as well. They might have got discouraged!! The real question is: since there is not the slightest doubt that Dr. Parker knows how to calculate the area of a circle, what is the purpose of this half page? (Note that in the next chapter, Spenser refers to 3,600 miles, not square miles, thus confusing the issue further!)"
I would also like to note that for a search area of 3,600 square miles the radius is 33.85 miles. Perhaps the Costigans traveled for 12 hours at 2.8 mph, or at 50 mph for 41 minutes. I will leave the above figures as an exercise for the student.
  • Oops3: SUNC wrote in to note a little continuity problem in chapter 38:
"Once Susan has been rescued from Russell, Spenser and Susan are talking and Susan asks Spenser if he had any siblings and he said no. She then says 'I was the youngest' ... In Sudden Mischief (chapter 6), when Spenser and Susan are talking about Susan's past, Susan says 'They were childless until me.'"
Much the same way that Spenser went from having had a mother in the earlier books to her having died during childbirth when Parker had a better idea years later.
  • Oops4: I want to thank Fran McQuillan and Gabrielle Devenish who wrote in to point out that the timeline and money issues in this book don't really make very much sense.
In Ch. 1 it was "a warm day in early summer" when Spenser got the letter from Susan. He wasted no time going out to break Hawk out of jail, and spent no more than a couple of days with a couple of prostitutes (where they picked up 11, 578 bucks, a subject that I will get back to later.) A phone call with Rachel Wallace, an attack on The Keep, a very insightful visit with Dr. Hilliard, and a nineteen hour or so drive up to The Lodge. Once they got there (ch. 17) "It was ten thirty on a warm fall morning." Was it the time zone change? Do you have to reset both your watch and calendar while traveling from coast to coast?
From there on the dynamic duo took a total of four plane rides, lived in a government safe house in Charleston at taxpayer expense, hung out in a cheap hotel in Pequod for less than two weeks before getting paying jobs at Transpan. Giving it a month at the most would be pushing it, but they're each pulling down a paycheck. Things blow up, Susan is rescued, the safe house is compromised and they all move to new digs. Within a day or two Susan contacts Russell and it's three airfares to the West coast for the final showdown. I understand that Hawk's taste in Champagne is not cheap but Susan was reduced to making cornbread with whole wheat flour and a can of spray-on shortening a few chapters ago.
In Ch. 41 Rachel Wallace states that "I have spent the entire summer studying Jerry Costigan." Does she mean from the "warm fall morning" just before Spenser called her until then?
And taking all of that into account, where did the $11,578 go? This was 1985, when you could buy a medium sized South American country for that price, or twenty years in a rent controlled New York city apartment. Did he really have to hit Hugh Dixon up for ten thousand dollars for three plane tickets and a handful of guns and ammo? Considering all of the above, a couple of nights at the Idanha Hotel and a few bottles of Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir imported from Oregon would amount to chump change.
And just to put the icing on the cake, as Russell and Spenser drove out to the mine in Ch. 51: "It was a little too late in the year for a convertible and the air was cold."
  • The Nose Knows: In several of the books Spenser has been saved from death by his sense of smell. This one was a bit more subtle, but the scent of hairspray behind a hidden door made his walk through the dark tunnel less hopeless, and I've included it in the Oft Quoted section. Thanks to Bill F and Dan Addy for helping to see I should add this one.
  • Those Golden days of Yore:
    • Dr. Hillard charges $80 for a session.
    • In San Francisco 4 coffees and 4 donuts cost $3.
    • At the diner back in Boston they had 5 coffees, 2 hot chocolates, double order of French toast. Ives left $4.
    • Boston in 1984: the Computer Museum was still being planned, and the harbor was a sewer. We've come a long way.
  • Show me the money: Well, at least when he runs out of money he can ask Hugh Dixon for help.

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