Hugger Mugger  
Series Spenser
Publisher G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date 2000
Media type hardcover
ISBN 0-399-14587-7
Preceded by Hush Money
Followed by Potshot

Cover InformationEdit

"Joan: the ocean's roar, a thousand drums." (See annotation below.)

From the dust jacket of the hard cover edition:

Spenser heads for horse country, in a thoroughbred addition to the landmark series by the assured master of American crime fiction.

"It's easy to see why Parker's snappy banter and cynical eye have kept fans turning; pages for twenty-five years. Spenser never seems to be in any; real danger, but his wisecracks, combined with Parker's shorthand flair for scathing characterization, nevertheless make for a satisfying read," said Entertainment Weekly of last year's Hush Money. Now Parker presents Spenser with a dangerous and multilayered case that takes him to the heart of the horse-racing world, as the Boston P.I, travels to a Georgia stable to protect the two-year-old colt destined to become the next Secretariat.

When Spenser is approached by Walter Clive, president of Three Fillies Stables, to find out who is threatening his horse Hugger Mugger, he can hardly say no: he's been doing pro bono work for so long his cupboards are just about bare. Disregarding the resentment of the local law enforcement, Spenser takes the case. Though Clive has hired a security firm, he wants someone with Spenser's experience to supervise the operation. And Spenser can't help being intrigued by Clive's daughter Penny-one of the three fillies-who has an insider's knowledge of the horse world, a deceptively charming air, and a great pair of legs herself.

Despite the veneer of civility, there are tensions beneath the surface southern gentility. The rest of the Clive family isn't exactly thrilled with Spenser's presence, the security chief has made it clear he'll take orders from no one, and the local sheriff's deputy seems content to sit back and wait for another attack. But the case takes a deadly turn when the attacker claims a human victim, and Spenser must revise his opinion of the whole Three Fillies organization-and watch his own back as well.

With razor-sharp dialogue, eloquently spare prose, and some of the best supporting characters to grace the printed page, Hugger Mugger is grand entertainment, further proof that Parker is "the finest prose stylist in the genre" (The Denver Post).

Inside InfoEdit

How did this book come about? Let me allow Dr. Parker to answer that for you. He appeared on a radio talk show here in Boston not long after its publication:

"About ten years ago Joan and I did a coffee table book called "A Year at the Races," and the idea was to get a writer of some reputation who knew nothing about horse racing, send him out for a year to look at, follow the horses of a single racing stable, in this case Dogwood Farms of Aiken, South Carolina. And by good fortune or whatever, the yearling colt that we first saw down in Aiken...when they bring them out to start them the first thing they do is stand them in the starting gate for five minutes then they take them out, and they build from there. And the horse was Summer Squall, who if you are a racing fan you have heard of, he's one of the great horses of the last thirty years, and I saw him when he was a baby, being led into the stall. So we did that book and Viking concealed the fact of its publication from almost everyone...They did not promote the book; they snuck it out as quietly as they could. But all of that information that I acquired about horse racing I thought I may as well put to good use in a book that someone will actually read."
The David Brudnoy Show
WBZ Radio 05 May, 2000

A bit of poking around led me to a website (now defunct) where I found the following:

1991 -- A Year at the Races is published, a coffee table book which chronicles the ups and downs of the Dogwood Racing Stable and highlighted by Summer Squall. The book is written by Robert and Joan Parker, with photographs by William Strode.

Interestingly, this is not the first time he has used that information in a book. James Dickert E-mailed me the following information. "In the book "Paper Doll", Spenser flies down to Alton, South Carolina. Based on his description of Alton's location, as well as some of the surrounding area, there is no doubt in my mind at all that Alton is in reality my own hometown of Aiken, South Carolina. Since Aiken is mentioned in another of the Spenser novels (which one escapes me at present), I feel that at some point, Parker must have visited here."

Recurring CharactersEdit

  • Susan, of course. Love has everything to do with it.
  • Pearl the Wonder Dog, who would probably resent being compared to Asta.
  • Sheriff's Detective Felicia Boudreau, who we met when last Spenser visited Alton South Carolina in Paper Doll.
  • Frank Ferguson, also from Paper Doll.
  • Owen Brooks, the Suffolk County DA we met in Small Vices, refers a client to Spenser who he badly disappoints.
  • Vinnie Morris, who he talks to on the phone to get a job for Kevin.
  • Martin Quirk, who tracks down John Delroy's past.
  • Before hiring Spenser Walter Clive did a little background check, contacting (among others) Jumper Jack Nelson (Paper Doll), Hugh Dixon (The Judas Goat, A Catskill Eagle), and State Police Captain Healy.

Literary References, or "The Annotated Gumshoe"Edit

The significance of the dedication: "the ocean's roar, a thousand drums" is from the song Day In, Day Out with music by Rube Blume and words by one of Parker's favorites, Johnny Mercer. See Lyrics

The significance of the title: 'Hugger-mugger' is a nonsense phrase coined to signify confusion and misdirected action surrounding a death. In Hamlet (act 4 scene 5) Claudius, in a conversation with Gertrude, reviews the sorrows that have come "not single spies... but in battalions" and among them lists

"the people muddied,
Thick and unwholesome in [their] thoughts and whispers
For good Polonius' death; and we have done but greenly
In hugger-mugger to inter him."

Chapter 2:

  • "Just an old sweet song." - From the song Georgia on My Mind written by the great Hoagy Carmichael, with a little help from Stuart Gorrell, in 1930. Ray Charles revived it in 1960 and it became a gigantic hit, and was eventually adopted as the state song of Georgia. See Lyrics
  • "Too bad virtue is not in fact its own reward." - Silius Italicus (25/26-101)AD in Punica, his epic poem about the Punic wars. Running to about 12,000 lines, it's the longest poem in Latin literature. "Ipsa quidem virtus sibimet pulcherrima merces (Virtue herself is her own fairest reward)"

Chapter 3:

  • "Jack Armstrong." - A popular radio series from the 30's and 40's, Jack Armstrong - The All American Boy solved mysteries, had adventures all over the world, and was in general an upstanding example of American youth.
  • "Stepping to beat of his own drummer." - See Oft Quoted
  • "As usual when I'm thinking long thoughts, I lay on the bed...Susan says I often snore when thinking long thoughts." - See Oft Quoted

Chapter 5:

  • "They're all descended from one of three horses, most of them from a horse called the Darley Arabian." - British Consul Thomas Darley imported that one to England in 1704. All modern Throughbreds trace their ancestry back to one of three horses: The Byerly Turk, the Darley Arabian, and the Godolphin Barb. As noted in this chapter that kind of inbreeding can lead to emotional instability.

Chapter 6:

  • "Up the Swanee without a paddle." - Wow, he took long enough to use that joke again. In The Judas Goat chapter 16 it was "up a fjord without an oar, as we Danes say" - a play on "Up the creek without a paddle."

Chapter 7:

  • "I never met a man I didn't like." - the immortal words of Will Rogers; cowboy philosopher, star of stage, screen and radio and an all around voice for the first half of the previous century.
  • "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds." - This third citing moves it onto the Oft Quoted page. It's from Shakespeare's Sonnet 116.

Chapter 8:

  • (love) "I heard it makes the world go round." - I was humming it to myself as I read the book so I thought this one would be pretty straightforward as I fired up the search engines. Think again.
  • Perry Como had a mildly successful song called "Love makes the world go 'round" in 1958, words and music by Ollie Jones. It got to #33 on the charts and from the lyric sheet it looks like that hep cat was really swingin'. See Lyrics
  • The version I was thinking of came from the Broadway musical Carnival, sung by Anna Marie Alberghetti to a sock puppet held by Jerry Orbach as Paul the puppeteer. The original cast album notes that it was "based on material by Helen Deutsch." See Lyrics
  • Does that plot point sound familiar? If you are a fan of old movies it certainly should. Carnival was an adaptation of the 1953 movie Lili starring Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrer in the above roles, and Helen Deutsch is listed as the screenwriter. Leslie's song to the puppet, "Hi-Lilli. Hi-Lo" by Bronislav Kaper and Helen Deutsch is, in my opinion, an even better song.
  • I made the mistake of trying to track down an MP3 using Napster, which I find very useful for my usual purposes. With over 2 terabytes of files to choose from the only links I found were four computers willing to upload a song by that name by the Powerpuff Girls. I respect my audience too much to go into the gory details here, but please find it in your heart to pity me for having to listen to it. Of course I still posted the Lyrics
  • And after I'd done all of that research my invaluable consultant Iain Campbell stepped back a century and referred to Iolanthe, act 2: "There are many places this is used in song, but RBP frequently quotes Gilbert and Sullivan. This is the last line of a song by the Lord Chancellor, who has just decided to award himself Phyllis in marriage. The chorus finishes up:
'Faint heart never won fair lady.
Nothing venture, nothing win.
Blood is thick but water's thin.
In for a penny, in for a pound.
It's love that makes the world go round.'
Since all the other line are long standing cliches, one has to think that Gilbert was just using common sayings which pre-existed his song."
And to take it even further Simone Hochreiter writes from Germany:
"'love makes the world go round.' I found another place where it is in: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, chapter IX, The Mock Turtle's story. The Duchess is citing morals, and this is one of them."

Chapter 8:

  • "Listen with a romantic ear." - This may be a stretch, but let's try The Bridal of Triermain; or the Vale of St. John, 1813 by Sir Walter Scott.
"But, if thou bid'st, these tones shall tell
Of errant knight, and damozelle;
Of a dread knot a Wizard tied,
In punishment of maiden's pride,
In notes of marvel and of fear,
That best may charm romantic ear."

Chapter 9:

  • "Somebody gelded John Henry." - and a further fortune in stud fees was lost. Several people have written in confused, remembering the "steel driving man," a former slave who tunneled through mountains the old fashioned way for the railroads in the 1870s and became a folk legend. The reference is to a horse who ran 83 times in eight years winning 39 races, with 15 places and 9 shows and total earnings of $6,597,947 to retire as the world's richest horse.

Chapter 10:

  • "So was Wallace Stevens." - A man who took the clichéd advise not to quit his day job. Stevens earned his law degree in 1903 and from 1916 until his death in 1955 was employed by the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, where he became Vice President in 1934. As is too often the case his widespread fame as a poet came mostly after he was no longer around to enjoy it. See The Snow Man, Anecdote of the Jar, and Sunday Morning in Poetry, and "death is the mother of beauty" in Oft Quoted.

Chapter 11:

  • "depravity loves company" - Iaian Campbell wrote to note that "Spenser's sententious comment sounds much like 'Misery loves company.' Used in Latin in Marlow's 'Dr. Faustus' Scene V. 'Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris.'"

Chapter 12:

  • "I could not love thee half so much, loved I not small boys more." - A slight rewording of To Lucasta, Going to the Wars, stanza 3 by Richard Lovelace [1649]. See Poetry. He last used this one way back in Early Autumn.

Chapter 13:

  • "Ah, sweet bird of youth." - See Oft Quoted.
  • Moore

    Archie Moore

    "You look sort of like Archie Moore." - An incredible boxer, he fought for 27 years and still holds the record for knockouts, 141 in his 228 fight career. He is the only man to have fought both Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali.

Chapter 14:

  • (Harvard) "The Emory of the north." - Emory University is a fine institute of higher learning down in Atlanta, Georgia for those who can't afford to come up north to get a real college education. Just kidding; Parker tossed this in as an example of good natured North/South rivalry.
  • The above was just my impression. Joshua Ribolla wrote in with the following:

"I saw something on the page that I thought I'd point out to you. Specifically, it concerns Spenser's joke about Harvard being the 'Emory of the North.' I believe that this comes from Emory alumni often calling Emory 'The Harvard of the South.' It's a delusion that also affects graduates of' Duke, Rice, and UVA, at times. All of them often reverse the joke- it's a discussion I've had a million times with my southern friends."

Chapter 15:

  • "Spuds Mckenzie." - See Oft Quoted
  • "Man's reach must exceed his grasp." - From Robert Browning’s Andrea del Sarto [1855], line 97: "A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?" See Oft Quoted.

Chapter 16:

  • "What's love got to do with it?" - Thank you Tina Turner. This 1984 song from the album Private Dancer was the biggest hit of her career, and was used as the title of her 1993 movie autobiography. She has won seven Grammy Awards and is still as exciting as ever. Pretty good for a girl originally named Anna Mae Bullock. See Lyrics

Chapter 17:

  • I owe this entire chapter to an E-mail from Simone Hochreiter: "Pretense is a slippery slope." - Simone points out that this looks like it comes from somewhere, and it's not the first time Parker has used it. Damned if I can trace it back.
  • "So many fruitcakes, so little time." - Same as the above.
  • "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." - Thanks for reminding me to research it. It's from a song entitled Isle of Beauty by Thomas Haynes Bayly (1797-1839), an American poet and songwriter. I have not been able to find a copy of the lyrics or the date of publication; but many sites agree that it contains the lines "Absence makes the heart grow fonder: Isle of Beauty, fare thee well!"
  • And since I stumbled across the following so many times in researching this, here is a painting of the same title by John William Godward.

Chapter 18:

  • "Sho' 'nuff." - For our foreign readers (Hi Simone!) this phrase is meant to convey how residents of the northern United States view the accent of those from the south. This one was especially associated with Black Americans who, as former slaves, learned their English there. Yankees a hundred years ago or so would have said "sure enough" meaning "yes."

Chapter 19:

  • "looked like Colonel Sanders." - Once again I look to Simone Hochreiter, who was unfamiliar with KFC. It's a sad story of a corporation cheating an original entrepreneur out of his idea and bastardizing it for their own profit. They still deep-fry chicken in a pressure cooker to drive the oil into the meat, but the original "11 herbs and spices" have, by sophisticated chemical analysis, proven to have been reduced to pepper and MSG.

Chapter 21:

  • "Send not to ask for whom the bell tolls." - This exchange comes from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions by John Donne (1571?-1631) "...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." See Poetry. He last referenced this work in Walking Shadow.

Chapter 21:

  • "All that glitters is not gold." - This of course refers to The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

"All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king."

I think Shakespeare said something similar in The Merchant of Venice, act 2 scene 7, but it is obvious that he was working from the earlier source.

  • Okay, I was feeling a bit flippant when I wrote the above and wondered how long it would take before someone took me to task. Dennis Tallett wrote in with a fascinating letter on the subject.
  • "'All that glisters is not gold' - a 13th century English proverb
  • 'All that glisters is not gold,' The Prince of Morocco in The Merchant of Venice 2:7:65 by William Shakespeare.
  • The first known use of the word 'glitters' occurred in 1687.
  • 'All as they say, that glitters is not gold.' It appears in The Hind and the Panther: The Second Part line 215 by English dramatist and poet laureate, John Dryden."

Chapter 21:

  • "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." - I agree with the author that this old aphorism is too sexually charged to be used innocently anymore.

Chapter 25:

  • "I smelled fetchingly of Club Man." - I guess Susan hasn't been able to wean him off of that scent, which reminds me of old-fashioned barber shops, although she made her view known in Small Vices.
  • "Readiness is all." - Parker loves that phrase; this is the eighth book in which he has used it. See Oft Quoted.

Chapter 27:

  • "A book by Jonathan Lear about Freud and other things." - That would be Love and Its Place in Nature : A Philosophical Interpretation of Freudian Psychoanalysis. I personally view philosophy as mental masturbation, but your mileage may vary. I was glad to return this one to the library.
  • "An old sweet song." - See chapter 2.
  • "Hot Dog." - Hisao Tomihari reminded me to link this to Oft Quoted

Chapter 28:

  • "Twice as much for a nickel too, Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you." - I'm a bit older than a lot of my fellow fans but this one was from the 1930's and is a little before my time. I can, however, sing along to the same sort of ad from the '50s: "Pepsi-Cola hits the spot/twelve full ounces that's a lot." And although I do cherish the memories of pulling those little glass bottles of ice-cold Coke out of vending machines, 20 ounces in plastic is my drink of choice nowadays.
  • Chris Schmidt writes to note:"I was watching a show about the history of the cola wars on the History Channel just the other day, so this stuck out in my mind. During the Depression, Pepsi sold twice as much of their cola for a nickel as Coke did in an attempt to get ahead. This wasn't just about thrift. It was the Depression, and people had to squeeze every nickel including when it cam to buying cola. Getting twice as much Pepsi as you could Coke was simply too good a deal to pass up and Pepsi really profited from this venture."

Chapter 29:

  • "Strange bedfellows." - A reference to "Politics makes strange bedfellows" from Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, Fifteenth Week [1870]. Parker last used it in Paper Doll.
  • "More than the spoken word can tell." - It's from the song The Last Farewell, words and music by Roger Whittaker. Parker last used it in Sudden Mischief. If (like me) you have a copy of the album you probably bought it by calling the number on your TV screen. "He has sold more albums in Europe than the Beatles and Elvis combined" or something like that if I recall correctly. See Lyrics
  • "Orphans of the storm." - Referring to the 1921 silent movie Orphans of the Storm, the last of D.W. Griffith's blockbuster epics. It starred Lillian and Dorothy Gish as sisters caught up in the French Revolution and a whole array of tearjerking troubles. It was based on a French stage play titled "Les Deux Orphelines." Cutting down three pages of research let's just say: "The sister's search for one another creates the thread of suspense and despair that holds the audience in it's grasp. We are never sure, until the end, if the miracle of their reunion will occur."
  • "You have learned well Grasshopper." - Master Po to Kwai Chang Caine in the TV series Kung Fu, 1972-1975. More I am not permitted to say.

Chapter 31:

  • "Maybe I'll catch a worm." - I've heard that's what early birds do.

Chapter 36:

  • "Open your golden gate, don't make a stranger wait." - The song is San Francisco, from the 1936 movie of the same name. It was Jeanette McDonald who made the song famous. See Lyrics. "San Francisco, open up your golden gate / You let no stranger wait outside your door / San Francisco, here is your wandering one / Saying "I'll wander no more." Dennis Tallett pointed to an earlier song, "California here I come," which may have inspired Gus Kahn when he wrote the above. Mr. Tallett writes: "A sun-kissed miss said, / 'Don't be late' / That's why I can hardly wait, / Open up that Golden Gate, / California here I come." Written by Al Jolson, Sylva and Joseph Meyer. Jolson sang it in his Broadway musical, 'Bombo',1921." See Lyrics

Chapter 39:

  • "Every dark cloud." - Hisao Tomihara found it. See Oft Quoted

Chapter 40:

  • "I'll hurry home to you, Lamarr, Georgia." - I blew the research on this one and have deleted my original entry, but Jack O'Toole was kind enough to write in and remind me of Tony Bennett's signature song: (I Left My Heart) In San Francisco. Gee, where was it Spenser just flew in from? "My love waits there in San Francisco / Above the blue and windy sea / When I come home to you San Francisco / Your golden sun will shine for me." That song was written in 1954; words by Douglass Cross, music by George Cory. Tony's recording peaked at #19 on the charts in 1962, which is far from his best showing, but it will always be remembered as his song. Thanks for the help, Jack. See Lyrics

Chapter 41:

  • "That will slow a progress." - A day without a Prufrock reference is like a day without Spenser. See Poetry

Chapter 42:

  • "Slow and steady wins the race." - Aesop, the fable of The Tortoise and the Hare. But as Damon Runyon commented about a similar saying: "It may be that the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong--but that is the way to bet." And just to head off nitpickers, that's from Ecclesiastes 9:11. I leave Xeno's paradox as an exercise for the student.
  • "Well, you're a detecting fool, ain't ya?" - Something familiar there but I can't trace it back.
  • "We never sleep." - The motto under the all-seeing eye in the old Pinkerton Detective Agency logo. See the write-up I did in Oft Quoted.

Chapter 47:

  • "I felt I had just wandered into a Johnny Mercer lyric." - Take your pick, the man wrote over 1100 songs, many of which could apply to the situation. Go on over to and see.

Chapter 48:

  • "an orphan of the storm." - See chapter 29 above.
  • "Ay, there's the rub." - Hamlet, act 3, scene 1; from the pen of William Shakespeare. "Whether 'tis nobler to take up a shotgun against a sea of sea of troubles..." Last used in Sudden Mischief chapter 38.

Chapter 49:

  • Nick and nora

    Nick, Nora, and Asta

    "I feel like Nick and Nora Charles." - A successful series of movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy starting with The Thin Man in 1934, based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett. He is a detective who married an heiress and got out of the business, or so he thought. The banter between the two is hilarious.
  • "Not without Asta." - Their dog was the third star of the above movies.

Chapter 52:

  • "Ever vigilant." - Let's try on this quote from Winston Churchill, in a speech entitled The Price of Greatness is Responsibility, given on 6 September 1943 at Harvard University, Cambridge MA:
  • "We do not war primarily with races as such. Tyranny is our foe, whatever trappings or disguise it wears, whatever language it speaks, be it external or internal, we must forever be on our guard, ever mobilized, ever vigilant, always ready to spring at its throat. In all this, we march together. Not only do we march and strive shoulder to shoulder at this moment under the fire of the enemy on the fields of war or in the air, but also in those realms of thought which are consecrated to the rights and the dignity of man."
  • "Hostess with the mostess." - One of the songs from the play Call Me Madam, words and music by Irving Berlin, 1950. It's a little dated now, dealing with an American ambassador sent to some little European country to throw cash at the poor backward place to keep it on our side of the Iron Curtain. The actual title is "Hostess with the Mostes' on the Ball." See Lyrics. Shlomit Lavi from Israel wrote in with more information: "The Hostess with the Mostess was Perle Mesta. She was so popular, she ended up ambassador to Luxembourg." You are absolutely correct. I found a page about here life at
  • "Little Bo-Peep." - A reference to a nursery rhyme of the same name. In 1697 a Frenchman named Charles Perrault published a collection of traditional folk tales such as "Sleeping Beauty" and "Little Red Riding Hood" in a volume called Stories or Tales from Times Past, with Morals which featured a cover drawing of an old woman with a goose telling stories to three children and had the subtitle Tales of Mother Goose. By the 18th century it had been translated into English and someone, I haven't been able to determine who, collected a large number of traditional folk rhymes and published them in the name of Mother Goose. Many people remember the first verse, but I've put the whole thing in Poetry. BTW Spenser is referring to a mutli-layered dress Dolly Hartman is wearing, matching the costumes from that period.
  • "Same Time Next Year." - Let me give you this that someone wrote about the movie version and stuck on "A man and woman meet by chance at a romantic inn over dinner. Although both are married to others, they find themselves in the same bed the next morning questioning how this could have happened. They agree to meet on the same weekend each year. Originally a stage play, the two are seen changing, years apart, always in the same room in different scenes. Each of them always appears on schedule, but as time goes on each has some personal crisis that the other helps them through, often without both of them understanding what is going on."
  • "I'm shocked, shocked I tell you." - See Oft Quoted

Chapter 53:

  • "Curiouser and curiouser." - See Oft Quoted
  • "I know a homicide cop out there named O'Gar." - I went over the character list and that name never came up in the previous books, so I tend to agree with contributor Matt Downey: "Spenser threatens Sherry Lark that he'll call in a homicide guy named O'Gar. This is a bit of an assumption but given RBP's enjoyment of Hammett that it refers to O'Gar the homicide detective from the Continental Op. He serves the same roll as Quirk in the Op series but is a bit more reticent."

Chapter 54:

  • "Now I know why the caged bird sings." - Paul Lawrence Dunbar, the son of former slaves, wrote Sympathy in 1899. It's an intensely powerful poem about captivity and the need for freedom and I am honored to include it on the Poetry page. Maya Angelou took that line as the title of her 1970 autobiography.

Chapter 55:

  • "The love that dare not speak its name." - It's the last line of a poem called Two Loves by Alfred Douglas, who was Oscar Wilde's homosexual lover. During a trial for "gross indecency" the prosecutor asked Wilde the meaning of the phrase. NAMBLA loves his eloquent response.
  • I would like to thank Dennis Tallet (who was contributing to Mike's original site long before I discovered it) for pointing out an error I have corrected in the above paragraph. I originally wrote that Alfred Douglas procured young boys for Oscar Wilde. Gross negligence on my part; I cited the wrong Alfie. That charge was laid against Alfred Taylor, the co-defendant in the trial.
  • And since I have been asked by others here is the end of the 74-line poem, "Two Loves"
. . . 'Sweet youth,
Tell me why, sad and sighing, thou dost rove
These pleasant realms? I pray thee speak me sooth
What is thy name?' He said, 'My name is Love.'
Then straight the first did turn himself to me
And cried, 'He lieth, for his name is Shame,
But I am Love, and I was wont to be
Alone in this fair garden, till he came
Unasked by night; I am true Love, I fill
The hearts of boy and girl with mutual flame.'
Then sighing said the other, 'Have thy will,
I am the Love that dare not speak its name.'

Chapter 57:

  • "Shuffle ball change." This is the same tap step that Paul Giacomin was trying to teach Hawk when Spenser woke up in his hospital room in Valediction, Ch. 40. After visiting several web sites devoted to tap dancing I still do not have the faintest clue as to what this movement involves.

Meanwhile, in the Spenser UniverseEdit

  • Wow, carbonated caffeine! Spenser has never before consumed a soda in this series of books and here he has three Cokes, two with Becker and one with Penny.
  • Frequent contributor Thomas Lorenc wrote in to note the following: "I happened to be browsing the earlier books (again) and discovered that at one point in Promised Land he had a CREAM SODA along with two hot dogs. Unless, of course, you're one of those people who put cream soda on a higher plateau than regular ol' coke (like me)." Right Tom, that's what I meant. It's not like I completely forgot information listed right on my own web site...
  • And he brought sugared donuts to the office. Sure he had some cinnamon ones because that's what Tedy Sapp bought, but these must have been his own purchase. In all these years he has never specified ordering anything but plain. Doesn't mean he hasn't, but we've never been told about it.
  • Fortunately the two times he has a muffin it is corn. Whew, that was close.

In the "Unanswered Questions" above I wondered that Jumper Jack was still alive and lucid enough to answer questions about Spenser. Contributor Corey Bradford was kind enough to point out the obvious:

  • "I think that Jumper Jack's butler spoke for him about Spenser's references. I am sure the butler has been seeing to those kinds of things for years." And Bruce Krulwich pointed out the even more blindingly obvious: "If you read the lines carefully, it says that Walter Clive heard about the incident with Jumping Jack Nelson, and talked to the police and others, but not that he talked with Jumping Jack Nelson. The wording seems intentionally careful to avoid saying that he talked to him. He could have heard about it around horse circles and gone directly to his contacts, knowing that Jumping Jack wasn't worth talking to any more."

Favorite LinesEdit

Chapter 1: I can see paradise by the outfield lights

"I was at my desk, in my office, with my feet up on the windowsill, and a yellow pad in my lap, thinking about baseball. It's what I always think about when I'm not thinking about sex. Susan says that supreme happiness for me would probably involve having sex while watching a ball game. Since she knows this, I've never understood why, when we're at Fenway Park, she remains so prudish."

Chapter 1: It's best to stick with the things you know best

"Penny said 'You think you can work with someone like that?'
'I'll win him over,' I said.
'Northern charm,' I said.
'Isn't that an oxymoron?' she said.
'You're right,' I said. 'Maybe I'll just threaten him.'"

Chapter 19: I'm trying to picture Hawk's reaction to this conversation

"'So is Lark your, ah, birth name?"
'No. It's my chosen name. When I left Walter I didn't want to keep his name. And I didn't want to return to my father's name, about which I had no choice when I was born.'
'I had the same problem,' I said. 'They just stuck me with my father's name.'
She paid no attention to me. She was obviously comfortable talking about herself.
'So I took a name that symbolizes the life I was seeking, the soaring airborne freedom of a lark.'
She drank some bourbon, I nodded and smiled.
'I relate to that,' I said. 'I'm thinking about changing my name to Eighty-second Airborne.'"

Chapter 22: I'm giving them my A-list material but I'm dying out here

"'I'm Valerie Hatch,' she said, and put out her hand. 'You're Spenser.'
'Right on both counts,' I said, and shook her hand.
'Owen Brooks suggested I might speak to you about my situation. You know Owen ?'
'He said this was a circumstance that might best be dealt with informally, that is to say, by someone like yourself.'
'Then it will have to be myself,' I said. 'There's no one else like me.'
'Owen also told me that you found yourself amusing.'"

Chapter 46: You'll wish you had it when you itemize your taxes next year

"The waitress put the check on the table. I paid it.
'You think this can be construed as a bribe?' Becker said.
'You want a receipt?'
'It'll be our little secret,' I said.


  • Chapter 6: A Coca-Cola with Dalton Becker (first soda ever!)
  • Chapter 9: Coffee and donuts from the commissary truck.
  • Chapter 10: A Coke with Penny.
  • Chapter 13: Becker supplies some sausage biscuits. Spenser's arteries do not immediately clog so he has two.
  • Chapter 25: Sugared donuts at the office (another first!)
  • Chapter 31: Juice, coffee, and a corn muffin in the hospital cafeteria. (at least some things stay consistent.)
  • Chapter 35: Deep fried lobster tail at Pano's and Paul's.
  • Chapter 38: Scrambled eggs with onions at Sears Fine Foods.
  • Chapter 42: Coca-Cola in Becker's office.
  • Chapter 46: Juice, coffee, and a couple of biscuits in the motel dining room. It took some work to get grape jelly out of those little containers.
  • Chapter 51: Fresh orange juice, coffee, hand melon, and a corn muffin in the Reading Room.
  • Chapter 54: Pizza at the Bath House Bar and Grill "with Tedy Sapp and the Clive outcasts."
  • Chapter 55: Cinnamon donuts from a box Tedy Sapp bought.
  • Chapter 56: A ham and cheese sandwich and a glass of milk at the hotel coffee shop.


  • Chapter 8: A few sips of champagne, same with Jack Daniels because SueSue insisted.
  • Chapter 15: Draft beer at the Bath House Bar and Grill.
  • Chapter 19: A beer at Walter Clive's wake.
  • Chapter 35: Absolut martini on the rocks at Pano's and Paul's.
  • Chapter 37: Scotch and soda in the hotel room.
  • Chapter 40: Two drinks in his hotel room.
  • Chapter 43: Draft beer at the Paddock Tavern.


  • All right, show of hands: who noticed the egregious typo in chapter 53 (page 273 of the original hardcover)? Spenser is talking to Larry Klein about Walter Clive and says "I think Walter Klein was killed because..." On the radio talk show I quoted above Parker admits that he does not proof read his material and that it is the job of the publishing house to catch that sort of thing. He told a caller who pointed it out to hang onto the book as a collectors item since he would have the publisher "recall that sucker" and then blamed the copy editors for having changed his manuscript (BTW: it was much funnier than I can make it sound here; you would have to hear the chuckling that went on in the studio that night.)
  • And it didn't stop there. Apparently the text was sent "as-is" to the foreign publisher, because Simone Hochreiter in Germany reports that her copy from "No Exit Press" in Britain contains the same error. I hope you paperback readers had better luck.
  • He also mentioned what he considers a worse error that made it into print: in Pastime chapter 27 Spenser recalls watching a game at Ebbetts Field where the right field wall was 2970 feet away, which would make it a mighty large ballpark. I wish I could find a copy of the book with that typo.
  • Addendum: A fan named Usagi wrote that he has a copy of Pastime with this typo and it actually reads "2976 feet." Thanks for the info
  • Further Addendum: Usagi found another copy of the book and sent it to me. First edition, G.P. Putnam's Sons, page 171.
  • Oops: Jo Trostle wrote in to note a continuity error: "In chapter 27 Dolly tells Spenser that Walter died without telling her the results of the DNA paternity test. Who knew the results of the test is key information in the case. Then in chapter 52 she tell Spenser that Walter told her the results the night before he was killed. Spenser doesn't bat an eye.
  • Oops2: Ingrid Lether pointed out a problem in physiological nomenclature: "I noticed that the filly in Alton, Carolina was supposed to have been 'shot in the neck once ... which had punctured her aorta'. The aorta does not run through the neck. It exits at the upper part of the heart, ascends for about 5 cm, which keeps it within the thoracic cavity, never even getting near the neck. Then it bends backwards and descends (until it splits at the level of the 4th lumbar vertebra, and goes on as the two iliac arteries - one for each leg). At the top of the 'U-turn' the aorta makes, 4 arteries branch off, the two sub-clavian and the two carotid arteries (left and right - for both arteries). So it must have been the carotid artery that was hit in the filly, and she bled to death from that."
  • Oops3: When did Susan do her teaching? Hisao Tomihari wrote in to note that Parker loses track of her schedule:
  • Ch. 25: "Wednesdays were always promising, because Susan didn't see patients on Wednesdays. She taught in the morning and normally spent the rest of the day with me."
  • Ch. 36: "Susan gave a seminar on Tuesdays from nine a.m. to eleven a.m."
  • I smell a catch phrase: In chapter 14 Becker tells Spenser not to visit the Bath House Bar and Grill or talk to the bouncer, whose name he carefully spells. Parker has been using this device frequently lately. See Police Business
  • Show me the money: Spenser refuses to bill the estate of a client who dies on his watch, so that's out. Valerie Hatch did not appreciate how he handled her case so nothing there. Fortunately Dolly Hartman hires him to look deeper into the shootings so there are a few bucks coming in.

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