A Savage Place  
A Savage Place cover
Series Spenser
Publisher Delacorte Press
Publication date 1981
Media type hardcover
ISBN 0-440-08094-0
Preceded by Early Autumn
Followed by Ceremony

Cover InformationEdit

"For Joan
No one is as interesting,
nor nearly so luminous"

Taken from the back cover of the paperback edition

TV reporter Candy Sloan has eyes the color of cornflowers and legs that stretch all the way to heaven. She also has somebody threatening to rearrange her lovely face if she keeps on snooping into charges of Hollywood racketeering.
Spenser's job is to keep Candy healthy until she breaks the biggest story of her career. But her star witness has just bowed out with three bullets in his chest, two tough guys have doubled up to test Spenser's skill with his fists, and Candy is about to use her own sweet body as live bait in a deadly romantic game--a game that may cost Spenser his life."

Recurring CharactersEdit

  • Rachel Wallace (cf. Looking for Rachel Wallace) makes a brief appearance when she recommends Spenser as a bodyguard to Candy.
  • Lt. Samuelson is the Homicide detective looking in on several bodies that pop up while Spenser is in town. He's essentially the LA equivalent of Lt. Quirk, even down to his sense of humor and grudging admiration for OFG.
  • The dark-haired art director across the street from Spenser's office puts in a brief appearance again, when Spenser waves across the way. No, really! She'll become more important soon, trust me!
  • Sgt. Belson is briefly mentioned, when Samuelson runs a check on Spenser, but we don't actually meet him or speak to him in the story.
  • Oddly enough, there is only a very brief mention of Susan in the whole story, and only as "someone Spenser is attached to." Nothing else. More on that later in this page.

Unanswered QuestionsEdit

  • OK, if Brewster was not at home after coming back from the oil fields, and he hadn't been to the office by the time Spenser had been both places, where did he spend the night? Second home? Hotel? With another sweet thang who was as good in bed as Candy? Idle prying minds want to know...

Literary References, or "The Annotated Gumshoe"Edit

Thanks to Chris McLaren for some of these.

  • Significance of the title: "A savage place! as holy and enchanted / As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted / By woman wailing for her demon-lover!" - Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kubla Khan [1798]. See Poetry. What it means, I don't know. Awesome poem, tho, especially if you're a Rush fan... :-) Bill Lambert writes: "This is a reference to California. Spenser leaves his known universe for the great unknown, and for the first time we see him fail. Some bodyguard." I like it! Thanks, Bill!

Chapter 1:

  • "Once you have found her never let her go" - How many times did I read right past that before Iain Campbell pointed it out? It's from the song Some Enchanted Evening by Rogers and Hammerstein in the musical South Pacific. See Lyrics

Chapter 2:

  • "I've been everywhere before, sweetheart." - I caught this reference to Spenser's flawless Humphrey Bogart impression in Hush Money years later but Hisao Tomihari discovered it here. I still can't remember which movie it's from.
  • "If I see a purloined letter lying about" - Iain notes that he is referring to The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allen Poe.
  • "While it is true that I can leap tall buildings at a single bound, and while, in fact, I am more powerful than a locomotive, it is not true that I am faster than a speeding bullet." - A reference to the Superman comics.

Chapter 6:

  • "It's because my heart is pure" - Hisao Tomihari found this one. See Oft Quoted
  • "We'll have to go dwell in the plains, east of Eden" - Iain reminds me that it's from Genesis 4:16 "And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the East of Eden."

Chapter 9:

  • "I was born in a trunk in the Princess Theatre in Pocatello, Idaho." - So sang the lead character Vickie Lester in the 1955 musical A Star is Born. Although Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin wrote most of the music this song was written by Leonard Gershe. See Lyrics
  • "Because they're there." - Hisao Tomihari found this one. See Oft Quoted
  • "It would be like playing tennis with the net down." - Hisao Tomihari notes that Parker is referring to the famous quotation by Robert Frost: "For my pleasure I had as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down." It's the same sentiment as "Death is the mother of beauty." See Oft Quoted

Chapter 10:

  • "Freedom of the press is a flaming sword. Use it wisely, hold it high, guard it well." - Steve Wilson, of The Illustrated Press.

I believe the original quote is "use it justly," but Parker was no doubt working from memory. It refers to the radio show "Big Town" which aired from 1937 to 1951. Edward G. Robinson (one of my favorite movie wise-guys) voiced the part of Steve Wilson, crusading editor of the Illustrated Press. Parker also used this line in The Godwulf Manuscript.

Chapter 12:

  • Scylla and Charybdis. According to Greek mythology, Scylla and Charybdis were two sea monsters close to one another, and between the two of them they managed to wipe out every ship passing by, until Odysseus managed to outwit them (or was it Jason and the Argonauts? I get those two mixed up sometimes). The phrase, "caught between the Scylla and Charybdis" basically means being caught between two equally difficult situations (a modern equivalent would be: "caught between a rock and a hard place"). I found the following at the "Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000" site: "Scylla and Charybdis, in Greek mythology, two sea monsters dwelling on the opposite sides of a narrow strait, the personification of the dangers of navigation near the rocks and eddies. Scylla was a horrible creature with 12 feet and 6 necks, each bearing a head with 3 rows of teeth, with which she devoured any prey that came within reach; she lived in a cave on a cliff. Across the strait, opposite her, was a large fig tree under which Charybdis, the whirlpool, dwelt, sucking in and belching forth the waters of the sea three times daily, engulfing anything that came near. When the Greek hero Odysseus passed between them, he was able to avoid Charybdis, but Scylla seized six men from his ship and devoured them. In later times, the geographical position of this dangerous passage was believed to be the Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily, with Scylla on the Italian side. Scylla, originally a beautiful maiden loved by a sea god, had been transformed into a monster by her jealous rival, the sorceress Circe."
  • "Maybe you need understanding like a fish needs a bicycle." - Hisao Tomihari notes the paraphrasing of a popular feminist saying. See Oft Quoted

Chapter 13:

  • "Remember the reporter that got blown up in Arizona?" - I remembered that it happened and out of respect I wanted to attach a name to this entry, but it eluded me. Fortunately contributor Michael Frazier knew the answer: "His name was Don Bolles, and his brother is Richard Nelson Bolles, the man who writes the 'What Color is Your Parachute' books." Thanks, Michael. With the name I was able to find an article about Don at this site. He was killed by a car bomb in 1976 for doing too good a job at investigative journalism. The story would have been fresh in the mind of Parker when he wrote this book four years later.

Chapter 14:

  • "Sleep. Death's second self." - William Shakespeare, Sonnet 73. See Poetry

Chapter 15:'

  • "Keening and wailing and gnashing of teeth." - most likely paraphrased from Matthew 8:12: "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Definitely Matthew but take your pick: Matthew 8:12 - But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 13:42 - And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 13:50 - And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 22:13 - Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 24:51 - And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 25:30 - And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Chapter 16:

  • "The cop you know is better than the cop you don't know." - Substitute "devil" for "cop" for an old saying whose origins I've not been able to pin down.

Chapter 19:

  • "Perspective is all" - Possibly a play on "Readiness is all" - See Oft Quoted.
  • "Once more unto the breach, dear friend[s]" - William Shakespeare, King Henry the Fifth [1598-9], Act III, Scene 1, line 1.

Chapter 21:

  • "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit." - One of the taglines of The Shadow (the old radio show, not the movie of 1994). Good old Orson Welles. Dennis Tallett expands on the above: The Shadow, on radio from 1930. Orson Welles from 1937. The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay. The Shadow knows! (followed by screeching laughter as the crook is dragged away to the gas chamber). Who knows .....what the hearts of men? The Shadow knows! (followed by the organ rendition of Omphale's "Spinning Wheel."

Chapter 22:

  • "I wondered if there was a leopard frozen up there anywhere." - Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro. "Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude."

"He sent us this eternal spring, / Which here enamels everything" - See next entry.

  • "He hangs in shades the orange bright, / Like golden lamps in a green light." - Andrew Marvell, Bermudas [1657]. The first two verses are lines 13 and 14, these are lines 17 and 18.
  • "The last and greatest of human dreams" - F. Scott Fitzgerald, work unknown. The Great Gatsby. "Its vanished trees...had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder."
  • "...human voices woke us." - See Oft Quoted and Poetry (The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock)

Chapter 25:

  • "Some bodyguard." - Bill Tobin wrote in to say that he found the following ch. 11 of Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler. Philip Marlowe and Anne Riordin are standing over the dead body of Lindsay Marriott:
  • "The girl was bent over, breathing on my neck now. 'Didn't you know him?' 'I only met him tonight. He hired me for a bodyguard.' 'Some bodyguard.' I didn't say anything to that."
Since Spenser is alone he has to say it himself, and seeing as Dr. Parkers PhD thesis dealt with the novels of Hammett and Chandler he is probably quoting.

Meanwhile, in the Spenser UniverseEdit

  • This is a very serious (and depressing as hell), story. For the first time that we know of, Spenser has failed, or at the very least he hasn't completed 100% of what he set out to do. The person he was hired to protect has been killed in cold blood, and this is going to have a profound effect on him for years to come.
  • At the same time, Spenser has got to be hurting from his infidelity to Susan. He allowed himself to sleep with Candy, and while he mentioned that Susan would not be as jealous of him as he would have been if she had gone and slept with someone, he feels guilty enough about it not to repeat the act when Candy offers later in the story.
  • And even more, you can tell that Spenser has distanced himself a bit from Susan by the simple fact that he doesn't contact Susan at all during his trip. In The Judas Goat, he missed her and called her at every opportunity. Not so here. IMHO, these three things have combined to drive a very big wedge between them, and we'll be feeling these repercussions down the road very soon.
  • Reading material: Play of Double Senses: Spenser's Fairie Queene by A. Bartlett Giamatti (who later became president of Yale). He also picks up a copy of The Great Gatsby to reread and finishes it in one sitting. Not too surprising, as it's a very short book. I understand why Spenser feels he has to read this book again every few years. It's pretty powerful, and well worth the time.
  • Spenser's ideas of movie stars to look for:
    • Dale Evans
    • Mala Powers
    • Tom Conway
    • Vera Hruba Ralston
    • Nina Foch
    • Rudd Weatherwax (who trained generations of collies to play Lassie.)

Favorite LinesEdit

Chapter 1: Did Cary Grant box?

"'Is there anything about you that would make you recognizable? Rachel told me you were big.'
'Yeah. I look just like Cary Grant would have if he'd been hit too often in the nose.'"

Chapter 2: Get down, get funky...

"'You're not going to go into a male funk on me, are you?' she said.
'It's the only funk I'm capable of,' I said."

Chapter 3: Better to be thought of as a simple thug

"I checked the mirror. Should I unbutton the shirt two more buttons and wear a bullet around my neck on a gold chain? Too pushy. They might think I was an agent."

Chapter 5: Cover all possibilities

"'Roger,' I said. 'I signed the standard bodyguard's contract, you know, to protect her against sticks and stones and broken bones. I'm not sure names are covered. My inclination, however, is to interpret the contract loosely.'
'Spense, are you threatening me?'
'I guess so, Rog. I guess I'm saying you shouldn't call her names, or I will tie a knot in your Ralph Lauren jeans.'"

Chapter 6: At least his parents got an apple when they left

"'See that they leave the grounds," Hammond said. "And see that they don't come back."
"We'll have to go dwell in the plains," I said. "East of Eden."

Chapter 9: Private eye love songs

"'What's that they're playing?' Candy said in my ear.
'"I'll Never Smile Again,"' I said.
'I wish it were Ravel's "Bolero,"' she said.
'At my age,' I croaked, 'you may have to settle for "Song of the Volga Boatmen."'"

Chapter 10: Kinky uses for Skippy peanut butter

"'Who do you suppose he was?'
'Security,' I said. 'I'll bet my album of Annette Funicello nudies on it.'
'You made that up,' Candy said.
'Wait and see,' I said.
'No, I mean the part about the Annette Funicello.'
'Oh, yeah,' I said. 'But a man's only as good as his dream.'"

Chapter 11: Spenser, man without peer

"'And I am sick of your smart mouth too,' Brewster said. He did his stare again. 'Who is your superior?'
'I have none,' I said. 'I'm not sure I even have an equal.'"

Chapter 11: So there. NYAAA.

"On the way out I picked the globe of the table in the book lined room and dropped it on the floor. That oughta fix 'em.'"

Chapter 12: All you small people are sizists, aren't you?

""' You're quite thoughtful,' she said, 'for a man your size.'
'You never been my size,' I said. 'You wouldn't understand.'"

Chapter 20: What? Was it something I said?

"'...It's okay, Mr. Brewster..." The color began to come back into Candy's face as she talked. 'No, it's okay, I understand. Lots of people have that reaction...Yes. I told him that.' She looked sideways at me for a moment."

Chapter 24: Look for an owner-operated franchise near you

"'I could pay you a little bit each month for a year or so maybe.'
'I could give you one of those little payment books like the banks do,' I said. 'No money down, thirty-six easy payments. Budget Rent-a-Sleuth.'"


  • Chapter 3: Fresh pineapple and whole wheat toast at the Beverly Hillcrest.
  • Chapter 5:
    • Pasta with fresh vegetables in a thin cream sauce he makes at Candy's.
    • Crackers and peanut butter by the end of the second day.
    • A large hamburger at Hamburger Hamlet.
  • Chapter 9: Medium rare butterflied lamb chops, asparagus with Hollandaise, at the Palm.
  • Chapter 10: Corned beef hash at Don Hernando's
  • Chapter 12: Nacho supreme at the Red Onion.
  • Chapter 15: Cheese, bread, country pate, an apple, and a pear from a French deli in Beverly Hills.
  • Chapter 19: Mongolian lamb with scallions at the Mandarin.
  • Chapter 20:
    • Roast beef sandwiches from Greenblatt's.
    • Bagel, chive cream cheese, and blackberry jam for breakfast (not both at once, of course.)
  • Chapter 22: He had "an orgy of B.L.T.s" at Candy's.
  • Chapter 23: Asparagus vinaigrette, veal medallions, pan-fried potatoes and a pear tart at Ma Maison.
  • Chapter 24: Bean and cheese burrito at Taco Burro.


  • Chapter 5: Frapeed Margarita and a big beer with lunch at Hamburger Hamlet.
  • Chapter 6: Beer at the studio commissary.
  • Chapter 9:
    • Beer with dinner at the Palm.
    • Brandy and soda on the balcony.
  • Chapter 12: Margaritas at the Red Onion, then Dos Equis.
  • Chapter 15:
    • Red wine while picnicking outside Felton's house.
    • Carta Blanca beer in Felton's house.
  • Chapter 19:
    • Kirin at the Mandarin
    • Coors at the Hyatt-Regency.
  • Chapter 20: Beer with his roast beef sandwiches at Candy's.
  • Chapter 21: A beer when he and Candy return separately in the morning.
  • Chapter 22: Coors with his B.L.T.s, then more after his run.
  • Chapter 23:
    • Graves white bordeaux at Ma Mason.
    • Brandy and soda at home.


  • Oops: In Chapter 21 Spenser thinks "Better safe than sorry, my mother used to tell me."
  • Felton does the tequila ritual in the wrong order. He does lime, tequila, salt. Traditionally it's salt, tequila, then lime.
  • Show me the money: The station pays him handsomely for a while, although he later quits. It's the principle of the thing.

Previous book: Early Autumn • Next book: Ceremony

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.