Spenser Wiki
Looking for Rachel Wallace  
Series Spenser
Publisher Delacorte Press
Publication date 1980
Media type hardcover
ISBN 0-440-04764-1
Preceded by The Judas Goat
Followed by Early Autumn

Cover Information[]

"For Joan, David and Daniel-- my good fortune"

Taken from the back cover of the hardcover edition.

"Rachel Wallace was a woman who wrote and spoke her mind. She made a lot of enemies--enemies who threatened her life.
Spenser was a tough guy with a macho code of honor, hired to protect a woman who thought that code was obsolete.
Privately, they would never see eye to eye. That's why she fired him. But when Rachel vanished, Spenser would rattle skeletons in blue-blooded family closets, tangle with the Klan, and fight for her right to be exactly what she was. He was ready to lay his life on the line to find Rachel Wallace."

Recurring Characters[]

  • This is the first time we meet Rachel Wallace (for whom the book is named), a lesbian activist writer, who hires Spenser as a bodyguard. When she is kidnapped and Spenser goes all out to rescue her, their resulting friendship is a lasting one. She pops up from time to time in later novels, and is sometimes very vital in helping Spenser solve a case.
  • Callahan, the night manager at the Ritz hotel. Spenser sees him two more times in the course of these novels.

Belson and Quirk make their usual appearances.

  • Susan spends some interesting days cooped up in Spenser's apartment during a rather large blizzard.
  • Hawk is mentioned briefly, but does not put in an appearance. They are not yet as close as they become in later novels, so this isn't surprising.
  • Wayne Cosgrove is a reporter from the Boston Globe whom Spenser goes to every now and then for information. We'll see him again in The Widening Gyre.

Unanswered Questions[]

  • So what happens to Julie? Sure, Lawrence is dead, but we've still got momma to deal with.
  • Even with Quirk's and Foley's words, presumably momma is still going to make a fuss about this. How does Spenser manage to avoid a lawsuit?
  • Why did the fat cop bend over and put his ear to English's chest to see if he was dead? He had already felt for the carotid pulse at the neck and surely found it wasn't there.

Literary References, or "The Annotated Gumshoe"[]

Chapter 2:

  • "I'm afraid you'll discorporate." - Iain Campbell writes "I know of only one book where this term was created to mean 'die': Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Do you think Spenser is such a stranger, in the radical feminist land where all his cherished values are upside down?"

Chapter 4:

  • "A pride of trumpets ought to play alarms and flourishes." Iain Campbell writes: "When an important person comes along, in the US, a military band plays one or two or three or four "ruffles (depending on rank) followed by a flourish. (This means there is a short blast of trumpet fanfare -repeated 1/2/3/4 times as they get more important- as the person walks out, followed by a slightly longer piece of fanfare type music, during which the celebrity smiles and acknowledges salutes). We see this in any movie about jousting, and knights, or about Roman emperors. I gather it is the musical equivalent of whatever Marine notices the arrival of an officer, yelling out: 'Officer on deck!' to warn the others. And of course a pride is just a collection , as in a pride of lions. So when he sees Susan sitting at the bar he is indicating that she stands out from the background crowd as would, shall we say, a queen or princess, a celebrity, and we should hear the trumpets do the TA-DA, then a brief flourish during which time she can smile and exude her regal presence." I think alarms comes from "alarums" in Shakespeare's stage notes, which are the equivalent of the modern "noises off" or offstage noises meant to give convey great happenings that could not be directly shown.
  • "The very sight of you makes my heart sing like an April day on the wings of spring" - Couldn't find anything. Perhaps Spenser is just being his usual poetic self? However, Michael Morgan writes: "That's a paraphrase of the first line of the song "My One and Only Love" by Mellin & Wood (best version is on the album "John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman"). The song goes, "The very thought of you makes my heart sing/Like an April breeze on the wings of spring/And you appear in all your splendor/My one and only love." By the way, if you see the movie "Leaving Las Vegas," you'll hear "My One and Only Love" sung about 5 times, by Sting, no less. See Lyrics

Chapter 6:

  • "You have to plan for the enemy's capacity, not his intentions." - Let us note that he attributes this advice to the Pentagon. In several other books he makes clear that is is from General Carl Von Clausewitz, who wrote On War in 1832. See Oft Quoted.
  • "If you cut us, do we not bleed?" - William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice [1596-7], Act III, scene 1, line 65.
  • "His voice was full of money, like Daisy Buchanan." - Iain Campbell noted this reference to The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Nick and Gatsby have the following conversation: "'She's got an indiscreet voice,' I remarked. 'It's full of---' I hesitated. 'Her voice is full of money,' he said suddenly. That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money---that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it...High in the white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl..." Good call, Iain. He doesn't use this one again until Double Deuce.

Chapter 9:

  • "Zing went the strings of my heart." - Song title; words and music by James F. Hanley. Judy Garland sang it in the 1938 movie Listen, Darling. See Lyrics

Chapter 10:

  • "What's right is what feels good afterwards" - Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon [1932], Chapter 1 (paraphrased from: "I know only what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.")

Chapter 12:

  • "His tie was knotted small but asserted by a simple pin." - Bill Tobin pointed out that this is from one of the most Oft Quoted poems in the Parker universe, T.S. Eliot's The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock. See Poetry

Chapter 13:

  • "There are stranger things in this world than in your philosophy, Horatio." - Rewording of the line from Hamlet, Act I, scene 5. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Chapter 16:

  • "Only yesterday. When the world was young." - from the song: (Ah, the Apple Trees) When the World Was Young written by Johnny Mercer. See Lyrics
  • "Files, I don't need no stinking files, gringo" - A play on Pancho Villa's line from Treasure of the Sierra Madre: "Batches? We doan' need no steenkeeng batches!" This is one of those phrases, like "Play it again, Sam," that is always misquoted. "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges." Alfonse Bedoya (1904-1957) as the character Gold Hat delivered these lines.
  • "Well, hardly ever." - This one slid right past me, but the inestimable Iain Campbell sent the following missive: "In my paperback edition, Chapter 16, p.105 'So where are all the people in this town who used to stand around chanting never and throwing rocks at children?' Cosgrove said, 'Most of them are saying "Well, hardly ever."' Wouldn't you perhaps agree that this is a direct reference to H.M.S. Pinafore, Gilbert and Sullivan, the Captain's song, in which he claims that he is 'never, ever sick at sea' but when challenged by the jolly tars, amends that to: 'Well, hardly ever.'" See Lyrics

Chapter 18:

  • "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" - See Oft Quoted This also shows up in Chapter 22.

Chapter 19:

  • "Here's looking at you, four-eyes." Thanks to Hisao Tomihari for noting this link to Oft Quoted

Chapter 22:

  • "I shall return" - Douglas MacArthur, On arriving in Australia from the Philippines [30 March, 1942]

Chapter 25:

  • "you been watching Police Woman again?" - Angie Dickenson played the part of sexy Sgt. "Pepper" Anderson in this 1974-1978 TV show in which she went undercover as everything from a prostitute to a gangster's girlfriend. Belson is noting its somewhat less than real idea of police work.
  • "A man's work is never done" - A play on the saying: "Man may work from sun to sun, / but woman's work is never done."
  • "Here's looking at you, kid." - Thanks again to Hisao Tomihari. See Oft Quoted

Chapter 26:

  • "The sun that brief December day rose cheerlessly and invisibly over one hell of a lot of snow in the city of Boston." - Contributor Peter Higgins notes that Parker is referring to "the first line of the celebrated Massachusetts poet John Greenleaf Whittier's famous piece "Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyll": "The sun that brief December day/Rose cheerless over hills of gray". "Snow-Bound" was one of the most popular poems of the 19th century, if I recall correctly, and it was customary for New England schoolchildren to be required to commit all of its 759 lines to memory." Spot on, Peter. It's a bit too long for inclusion on the the Poetry page but you can read it here
  • "We're in an old Mark Stevens movie." - Let's see, there's Street With No Name (1948) or Cry Vengeance (1954) but I'd lay my money on The Dark Corner (1946). Mark played a detective framed by his partner and sent to prison. On being released he finds himself followed by a mysterious stranger. Before he can find out why, his ex-partner's body winds up under his bed and the police are once more after him. His secretary (Lucille Ball) solves the sinister murder scheme, and I believe they had a phone conversation like this.

Chapter 29:

  • Joseph E. McCarthy - The Red Scare. A politician from the 1950s who became quite powerful for a while by claiming that Hollywood was overrun by godless communists. Many people were blacklisted (denied employment) and their lives and careers were ruined. He was eventually exposed as a fraud and a weasel, and his name has become as much of a catch phrase as Col. Charles Lynch, Charles Boycott, and Dr. Samuel Mudd.
  • "Jane Eyre" - Written by Charleotte Bronte, in the first chapter Jane attacked the young lord of the house who had assaulted her, and was dragged away and locked in an upstairs room. Very fitting indeed.

Chapter 30:

  • "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio we want you on our side." - The song Joltin' Joe DiMaggio was written by Alan Courtney and recorded by the Les Brown Orchestra. See Lyrics

Meanwhile, in the Spenser Universe[]

  • Spenser's shirt size is (not surprisingly) XL.
  • Since this book was published in 1980 that must have been the Blizzard of '78 he is recounting. Walking to the English house would indeed have been his only option. Out here in the suburbs I saw people on cross-country skis going through the center of town days later.
  • Susan got rid of her Nova and bought an MG. Someday it will be Spenser's.

Favorite Lines[]

Chapter 1: A little modesty never hurts

"'How did your nose get broken?'
'I fought Joe Walcott once when he was past his prime.'
'And he broke your nose?'
'If he's been in his prime, he'd have killed me,' I said."

Chapter 1: Not to mention having his blackjack rewoven

"'Two hundred dollars a day," I said. "And expenses."

"Yeah, you know. Sometimes I run out of ammunition and have to buy some more. Expenses."

Chapter 1: And proud of it

"'...you work awfully hard at being a wise guy. And you look like everything Rachel hates.'
'It's not hard work,' I said.

'What isn't?'

'Being a wise guy. It's a gift.'"

Chapter 2: Some people have no sense of humor...

"'John has warned me that you are a jokester. Well, I am not. If we are to have any kind of successful association, you'd best understand right now that I do not enjoy humor. Whether or not successful.'
'Okay if now and then I enjoy a wry, inward smile if struck by one of life's vagaries?'
She turned to Ticknor, and said, 'John, he won't do. Get rid of him.'"

Chapter 6: Is there such a thing as a perfect asshole?

"A splendid figure of a man, the rock upon which the picket line was anchored. Surely a foe of atheism, Communism, and faggotry. Almost certainly a perfect asshole."

Chapter 7: Spenser, the last line of defense

"'You were a stupid thug. I will not have you acting on my behalf in a manner I deplore. If you strike another person except to save my life, I will fire you at that moment.'
'How about if I stick out my tongue at them and go bleaaah.'
'I'm serious,' she said.
'I'll say.'"

Chapter 10: No one ever accused him of being photogenic

"I handed him my license. He looked at it and looked at me. 'Nice picture,' he said.
'Well, that's my bad side,' I said.
'It's full face,' he said.
'Yeah,' I said.

Chapter 13: Occupation: lecher

"A girl not long out of the high-school corridors came past me wearing very expensive clothes, very snugly. She had on blue harlequin glasses with small jewels on them, and she smelled like a french sunset.
She smiled at me and said, 'Well, foxy, what are you looking at?'
'A size-nine body in a size-seven dress,' I said.
'You should see it without the dress,' she said.
'I certainly should,' I said."

Chapter 13: Gotta love that snappy dialogue

"'Who are you' he said.
'I'm the tooth fairy,' I said.
'The what?'
'The tooth fairy,' I said. 'I loosen teeth.'
Timmons's mouth opened and shut. Boucher said, 'We don't need any smart answers, mister.'
I said, 'You wouldn't understand any.'"

Chapter 18: Well, that certainly narrows down the search criteria

"'I'm looking for one of your people. Young guy, twenty-five, twenty-six. Five ten, hundred eighty pounds, very cocky, wears military decorations on his uniform blouse. Probably eats raw wolverine for breakfast.'"

Chapter 19: Modernization isn't always a good thing

"The main entrance to the Boston Public Library used to face Copley Square across Dartmouth Street. There was a broad exterior stairway and inside there was a beautiful marble staircase leading up to the main reading room with carved lions and high-domed ceilings. It was always a pleasure to go there. It felt like a library and looked like a library, and even when I was going in there to look up Duke Snider's lifetime batting average, I used to feel like a scholar.
They they grafted an addition on and shifted the main entrance to Boylston Street. Faithful to the spirit, the architect had probably said. But making a contemporary statement, I bet he said. The addition went with the original like Tab goes with pheasant. Now, even if I went in to study the literary influence of Eleanor of Aquitaine, I felt like I'd come out with a pound of hamburger and a loaf of Wonder bread."

Chapter 19: Get thee behind me, Santa

"Out in the subs most of the snow was still white. There were candles in all the windows and wreaths on all the doors. Some people had Santas on their rooftops, and some people had colored lights on their shrubbery. One house had a drunken Santa clutching a bottle of Michelob under the disapproving stare of a red-nosed reindeer. Doubtless the antichrist lurks in the subs as well."

Chapter 22: An eye for an eye...

"When I left, Mrs. Roy didn't come to say goodbye, and Manfred didn't offer to shake hands. I got even--I didn't wish them Merry Christmas."

Chapter 22: Mommie Dearest

"'She sat in while we questioned sonny and tended to answer whatever we asked him. I told her finally, why didn't she hold him on her knee and he could move his lips? She told me she'd see to it that I never worked for any police department in this state.'
'You scared?' I asked.
'Hell, no,' Belson said. 'I'm relieved. I thought she was going to kill me.'"

Chapter 24: Yes, but is he sweet and tasty?

"He also had small eyes and a button nose in a doughy face, so that he looked like a mean, palefaced gingerbread man."

Chapter 26: Born in the deep jungle...

"'I had always thought,' she said, her face still pressed into my shoulder, 'that men of your years had problems of sexual dysfunction.'
'Oh, we do,' I said. 'I used to be twice as randy twenty years ago.'
'They must have kept you in a cage' she said. She walked her fingers up my backbone, one vertebra at a time.
'Yeah,' I said, 'but I could reach through the bars.'"

Chapter 27: The secret to making a good fire

"'You make a good fire for a broad,' I said to Susan.
'It's easy,' Susan said, 'I rubbed two dry sexists together.'"


  • Chapter 1: Lobster Savanna at Lock-Obers'.
  • Chapter 4: Cream of carrot soup and Veal Giorgio at Rosalie's.
  • Chapter 8: Batter-fried shrimp with mustard fruits at the Harvest.
  • Chapter 12: A meal he didn't have: he passes on the Scrambled Hamburg Oriental.
  • Chapter 14: Oysters at the Raw bar in Quincy market and a skewer of fresh fruit and melon.
  • Chapter 15: Coffee and donuts in his office.
  • Chapter 17: Tuna on whole what and a Winesap apple from a small stand on St. James Avenue.
  • Chapter 19: Peking Ravioli and Mushu pork across from the Public Library.
    • Caponata and syrian bread at Susan's house, followed by steak, mushroom, peppers, and onions along with rice pilaf.
  • Chapter 20: Lamb chops and black bread at home.
  • Chapter 23: Meatloaf sandwich with lettuce for supper at home.
    • Cornbread, country sausage, and broiled tomato for breakfast.
  • Chapter 24: Lunch in the car: fresh syrian bead, a pound of feta cheese, a pound of calamata olives.
  • Chapter 25: Spaghetti with a sauce of broccoli, garlic, basil, parsley, kosher salt, and oil. Served with the rest of the syrian bread from lunch.
  • Chapter 26: Cornbread made with buttermilk and wild-strawberry jam.
    • Whole wheat toast at the Parker House.
  • Chapter 27: Ham sandwiches.The ham is from Millerton in New York state. "Cured with salt and molasses. Hickory-smoked, no nitrates."
  • Chapter 31: Red beans and rice, chopped peppers and scallions, with canned chopped tomatoes on top, served with grated cheddar cheese.


  • Chapter 1: Draft Heineken. As to hard liquor: "Not often. I don't like it. I like beer."
  • Chapter 2: Beer at the Ritz bar.
  • Chapter 4: Beck's at Rosalie's.
  • Chapter 9: Beer at the Ritz bar.
  • Chapter 14: Beer in Quincy Market.
  • Chapter 19: Beck's at Susan's.
  • Chapter 20: Irish whiskey in his coffee at home after the beating. Four cups in fact.
  • Chapter 23: Three bottles of Molson Ale.
  • Chapter 24: Picks up a six pack of Beck's. Two with lunch, more with Belson later.
  • Chapter 25: Molson at home, Soave Bolla with supper.
  • Chapter 30: Wild Turkey with Susan and Rachel, then he switches to beer.


  • Show me the money: It was good while it lasted, which wasn't long. The rescue was a freebie.

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