(This page is a good candidate for revisiting with today's search engines.)

I have a couple of notebooks chock full of phrases that caught my eye while I was researching these books. I've spent countless hours with various search engines pinning most of them down, but some have eluded me. I invite you to help me track down the stragglers.

I noted lines for several reasons.

  • The ones in italics meant they were from another source, but my research came up empty.
  • They seemed vaguely familiar
  • They looked to my eyes like quotes from a poem, movie, or old song.
  • They were not in the style of Robert B. Parker.

Number four is probably the most important, and takes in numbers two and three. I had read all of the books, some several times, before I started my research. Since then I have done a close reading, taking notes, twice through the entire series. "I turned my body into the punch" is RBP. "Music beyond a distant hill" is a reference. To me the difference is obvious.

Share your knowledge. Some of the things I couldn't find may seem obvious to you. Or you may be more skillful than I at putting together just the right search string. Tell me where you found it and your name will be enshrined on the book pages. Hell, take a good enough guess and maybe we can point someone else in the right direction.

Mortal Stakes

  • Ch. 16: "Oh, giant intellect." See next book for why I included this.
  • Ch. 26: "There is a knife blade in the grass, and a tiger lies just outside the fire."

To Which Susan replies "My God Spenser, that's bathetic. Either tell me about what hurts or don't. But for chrissake, don't sit here and quote bad verse at me."

Promised Land

  • Ch. 4: "Ah, oh giant of brain, come the light."
  • Ch. 14: "In desperate times, habit helps give form to our lives."

The Judas Goat

  • Ch. 8: "Can't be too careful in a foreign land."
  • Ch. 8: "Continuity in the midst of change."
  • Ch. 9: "So what if I humor a fetish."
  • Ch. 13: "A man is poor indeed if he don't do something for his people."
  • Ch. 21: "Out of place in the quiet suburbs among artifacts of family."
  • Ch. 25: "The world becomes impersonal."
  • Ch. 25: "Hate corruption in all its aspects."

Looking for Rachel Wallace

  • Ch. 9: "As if I were not offensive to his sight."

Early Autumn

  • Ch. 17: "What an unlovely little bastard."


  • Ch. 2: "The sparkle from your eyes is all I need."
  • Ch. 29: "Into the maw of the beast." Probably related to Jonah 1:17, but I have to check various translations.

The Widening Gyre

  • Ch. 5: "The power of sweet reason."
  • Ch. 17: "A man's no better than his dreams."
  • Ch. 28: "Machismo's captive."


  • Ch. 4: "Illusion is nearly all we have."
  • Ch. 12: "Force expanding in a kind of ecstasy, a frenzy released."
  • Ch. 17: "Purple field flowers in bright density."
  • Ch. 26: "I clung to her as if I clung to earth, as if to let go were to disperse into the rainy night."
  • Ch. 46: "The past is painful, maybe even fraudulent, the future is uncertain, maybe scary. What we have is a continuing present"

A Catskill Eagle

  • Ch. 50: "There was around the small city a dark starlit sense of space running off in all directions under a high disinterested sky."

Taming a Sea Horse

  • Ch. 9: "Intimate distaste."
  • Ch. 15: "Maybe I should rely more on sweet reason."

Crimson Joy

  • Ch. 1: "The last shame of winter."
  • Ch 13: "It was one of those deceptive days in April when it seems like spring and the wind is a velvet conceit on the lingering reality of winter."
  • Ch. 20: "I am truth's servant."
  • Ch. 32: "It was grand work."
  • Ch. 32: "To my left the ocean stretched away into space with its illusion of empty freedom. Maybe Felton's last illusion as he fled along it. Infinitely open, and if we turned into it we died."
  • Ch. 32: "Mechanical voices speaking of life's darkest side."
  • Ch. 33: "Without any power but the uses of love."


  • Ch. 32: "Watched the rain as night settled in behind it."


  • Ch. 28: "Over all, the hard silence - made more resounding by the hints of punctuation."
  • Ch. 28: "Above me the clouds drifted west, and the sun imperceptibly followed."


  • Ch. 3: "The silver edge was thinning as the evening came down on us."

Double Deuce

  • Ch. 25: "We were at the other end of life."

Paper Doll

  • Ch. 10: "The hyperbole of jealous passion."
  • Ch. 29: "It was like a balloon untethered and wafted, aimless and disconnected, above the felt surface of life.
  • Ch. 43: "The rain, which was cold and hard and without respite."

See the annotations for a possible source.

Walking Shadow

  • Ch. 22: "The audible, celestial hush of the world moving through space."
  • Ch. 34: "Where the monotonous rain washed them bright."
  • Ch. 37: "Waiting to catch sight of a bird they'd never seen before."

Thin Air

  • Ch. 7: "A noise I didn't know."
  • Ch. 8: "Weighty with high seriousness."

Small Vices

  • Ch. 1: "Whore to her husband, slave to her children."
  • Ch. 15: "Walking alone, remote below the darkening sky."
  • Ch. 21: "I am wise far beyond my years."
  • Ch. 27: "Without hope, what are we?"
  • Ch. 28: "Comely in every aspect."
  • Ch. 52: "When you tear away the mask of glamour."

Sudden Mischief

  • Ch. 41: "And the laughter bubbled out of her like a clear spring."

Hush Money

  • Ch. 33: "I've been everywhere before." Of course it's Bogey. I've seen the movie. Can't remember which one.
  • Ch. 43: "Honor requires difficulty."

Back Story

  • Ch. 34: "Unaware and free of care."
  • Ch. 57: "In a fallen world even perfection is flawed."

I found echoes of the idea in St. Augustine, Milton, and many evangelical web sites but nothing that really grabbed my attention.

Bad Business

  • Ch. 10: "Looked at the encouraging stars."
  • Ch. 22: "Excuse me, I speak so many languages."
  • Ch. 30: "Speaking aimlessly of our hopes and dreams."

Plus a couple more that appear in several books:

  • When presented with the prospect of food or drink: "We'd be fools not to." Looks like a movie line to me. Which one?
  • And one that has made the Oft Quoted page: "The ways of the Lord are often dark, but never pleasant."