Series Spenser
Publisher Delacorte Press
Publication date 1984
Media type hardcover
ISBN 0-816-13702-1
Preceded by The Widening Gyre
Followed by A Catskill Eagle

Cover InformationEdit

"For Joan, like gold to airy thinness beat" See the discussion of the title below for the significance of this dedication.

Taken from the back cover of the paperback edition.

"The most dangerous man to cross is one who isn't afraid to die. But the most deadly is one who doesn't want to live. And Spenser has just lost the woman who made life his number-one priority.

So when a religious sect kidnaps a pretty young dancer, no death threat from the fanatics or their mobster friends can make the tough detective cut and run. Now a hit man's bullet is wearing Spenser's name. But Boston's big boys don't know Spenser is ready--and willing--to meet death more than halfway."

Recurring CharactersEdit

  • Susan, though only appearing briefly, is the focal point of this story (sort of). She has left Spenser to take a job on the west coast, and to have a shot at being her own woman for a change. When she takes up with a married man, the shock is almost too much for Spenser to bear.
  • Paul Giacomin (cf. Early Autumn) spends the summer with Spenser, in an effort to partially fill the void. He's also working for a Tap Dancing company in Boston, whose boss hires Spenser to find a missing dancer (thus we have a plot to the story).
  • His girlfriend, Paige (cf. The Widening Gyre), also makes a brief appearance.
  • Since Spenser is so despondent (and definitely suicidal), Hawk figures prominently in the effort to keep Spenser alive. He shows up here and there throughout the story, mainly to watch Spenser's back.
  • We also see Henry Cimoli briefly, when Hawk and Spenser work out. A normal thing.
  • We don't see Joe Broz, but we do see Vinnie Morris (cf. The Widening Gyre), as the storyline involves drugs, and Vinnie is trying to find the supplier so Broz can take over from Mickey Paultz. Mickey is put out of the picture, but Spenser manages to keep Broz from taking up the slack.
  • Callahan, the assistant manager (read house detective) shows up very briefly.
  • Vince Haller, Spenser's lawyer, shows up briefly to help Spenser organize a trust fund for the Bullies' church.
  • We meet Rita Fiori, an assistant D.A., for the first time here, when Spenser sets up Mickey Paultz. Literate and sexy. We'll see more of her in the future. A full seven years after Mike originally posted this page Iain Campbell noted that in all of the later books her name was spelt Fiore.
  • Quirk and Belson put in an appearance after the shootout at the dam locks, and when Paultz is found dead.
  • Finally, our dark-haired art director has a name! Linda Thomas, 38, very intense, and a firm rock for Spenser to hold on to in the midst of the storm. She is very loving and caring, and is crazy about OFG. She would be perfect for Spenser, except that he can't let go of Susan. In the end, Linda can't take that devotion, and leaves him. We haven't seen her since. Too bad, I rather liked her.

Unanswered QuestionsEdit

  • Will we ever see Linda again? Nope. They even tore down the building where she used to work, although Spenser still pictures it in his mind for years after.
  • Who will run the Bullies now that Sherry is dead? Perhaps the PR guy, Owens?
  • For that matter, what happens to Tommy Banks's tap dancing school? I guess everyone involved is out of a job...
  • Why did it take Hawk so long to come into the dance studio? Tommy shoots Winston, Spenser shoots Tommy, Sherry picks up Tommy's gun, has a conversation with Spenser, shoots him twice and dies by Spenser's hand. Only then does Hawk enter the scene. Wasn't he along to prevent that sort of thing from happening to his buddy?

Literary References, or "The Annotated Gumshoe"Edit

Title Significance: "Dull sublunary lover's love / (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit / Absence, because it doth remove / Those things which elemented it" - John Donne, A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, stanza 4. My best guess is that Spenser cannot take Susan's absence because he feels like he is losing a part of himself. Anyone care to comment? (I have posted the poem on the Poetry page, and you can see for yourself that Mike was quite correct. Note that Parker refers to his relationship with his wife Joan in the dedication above by quoting from stanza 5:
"Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet A breach, but an expansion, Like gold to aery thinness beat.
Of course this also is Spenser's view of his relationship with Susan, although she has a much longer and harder road to travel before she realizes it. One of the best parts of the next book is an exploration of that journey.

Chapter 1:

  • "Cambridge cops, grayhaired mostly, with faces out of County Mayo." - Cindy Forman explains: "County Mayo borders the Atlantic Ocean on the western coast of the Republic of Ireland. It’s Parker’s way of saying the Cambridge cops are Irish."

Chapter 2:

  • "'Veritas,' I said to Susan." - Cindy Forman points out: “Veritas,” which is Harvard’s motto, means truth, and Susan tells the truth when she says, “I’ve taken a job in San Francisco.” At the end of Chapter 1 she was evasive when Spenser asked her if she’s going back to D.C.

Chapter 4:

  • "Top-Siders." - Cindy Forman notes that "Top-Siders are boat shoes."
    Sperry-top-sider 1

    Top-sider shoe.

  • "Cradle of liberty." - This seemed too obvious to mention until a reader from Europe asked me about it. It's Boston, where the fight to throw off the chains of English tyranny began, leading to our Revolutionary war. Note that Spenser uses it rather ironically after Hawk salutes "Rum, religion, and slaves." Many an old Yankee fortune began with the infamour Trangle Trade of molasses to rum to slaves. Liberty came a bit later for some people.(Dennis Tallet notes: "Faneuil Hall, Boston, was the center of many Revolutionary meetings and became known as the cradle of liberty.")

Chapter 5:

  • "On the tube Floyd was singing a duet with Pearl Bailey." - Cindy Forman did a great job of digging into this one. "In Season 3 of The Muppet Show, Pearl Bailey was a guest on the episode that aired on November 16, 1978. Pearl Bailey performed with Sgt. Floyd Pepper, the bass guitarist for the Muppet band called Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. According to Sgt. Floyd Pepper was a laid back hippie-type with a pink body and long reddish-orange hair. His name refers both to Pink Floyd and to the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Floyd's pink color is a little insider joke; he is a Pink Floyd.

Chapter 7:

  • "Still got that roll of dimes?" - Spenser is referring back to his last meeting with Callahan in chapter 10 of Looking for Rachel Wallace. A large guy might put a roll of quarters in his hand to add extra power to his punch, but the assistant night manager (house dick) explained that he had a small hand.
  • "His desire is Cooperstown. His talent is Pawtucket." - The National Baseball Hall of Fame is located in Cooperstown, NY. Pawtucket, RI, is the home of the Pawsox (formerly known as the Pawtucket Red Sox) the minor league farm team of the beloved Boston bunch. Unless you're a baseball fan or a local that analogy may not be immediately obvious.
  • "Malt does more than Milton can to justify God's ways to man" - See Oft Quoted

Chapter 8:

  • "I could smile and smile and be agnostic." - Brian Colby wrote in to note how aptly Parker used this Shakespearean reference: "I believe this is a paraphrase of a line in Hamlet, Act I, Sc. 5, "That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain".
  • "...a football player named Fred Smerlas." - A three year starter for B.C., Team captain in his senior year. When this book was written he was with the Buffalo Bills. He's on a local sports radio show now. Local to me that is, maybe not to you.
  • "He smelled of bay rum." - Cindy Forman looked up the history of the scent: "Bay Rum is a traditional Caribbean skin tonic and after-shave that’s been around for centuries. It is made from a combination of bay oil, citrus and spice oils, alcohol, and water. It was first made in the West Indies, where it was prepared by boiling the leaves of the West Indian Bay in white rum and collecting the distillate."
  • "Absolute power corrupts absolutely" Dean Cashen writes: This was by Lord Acton in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, April 3, 1887: "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Chapter 9:

  • "She was wearing high healed shoes with no backs...Susan had told me that those kind of shoes were called fuck-me shoes." - Cindy Forman translates this fashion item: "Actually they are called mules. The toes can be open (peep toes) or closed. The heel can be high or low. Today there are mule sneakers, mule loafers, and mule clogs."
  • "We do not turn the other cheek here" - reference to Matthew 5:39: "Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." Implies that the speaker will, in fact, resist evil, so there.

Chapter 12:

  1. "The Incredible Hulk doesn't have a girlfriend either." - Apparently Spenser is not a close enough fan of the graphic novels. Thomas Moser begs to differ with the (other) big guy: "While I'm a little slow on my Tennyson and Frost I do know my Stan 'Mr. Marvel' Lee. The Hulk had a girlfriend (later his wife) named Betty Ross, daughter of General 'Thunderbolt' Ross, the guy who lead the army battalion sent to stop the Hulk."

Chapter 17:

  • "I didn't believe that stuff about lilies of the field." - Matthew 6:28: "Consider the lilies of the field. They toil not, neither do they spin." Yet they do pretty good anyway.
  • "Curiouser and curiouser." - See Oft Quoted

Chapter 18:

  • "I was wondering about whether it really was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." See Oft Quoted

Chapter 19:

  • "...why this is midlife crisis nor am I out of it." - A take on a line from Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. Mephistopheles explains why the Earth is no more comforting to him than Hell. "Why this is hell, nor am I out of it./Thinkest thou that I, who saw the face of God/And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,/Am not tormented with ten thousand hells/In being deprived of everlasting bliss?
  • "I wondered how ducks knew so quickly the kernel from the husk." - A reference to "The Kernel and the Husk: Letters on spiritual Christianity" (1886) Edwin Abbot, best known as the author of "Flatland."
  • "There was a scar at the corner of his mouth as if someone had slashed it during a fight and the repair job had not been done by Michael De Bakey." - Cindy Forman notes that "Michael Ellis DeBakey is best known for his pioneering work in cardiovascular surgery."
  • "Blankness is all." - A profound statement of how far Spenser has removed himself from the world of feelings. It's the mirror opposite of one of his very favorite sayings, "readiness is all." See Oft Quoted

Chapter 21:

  • "Nature hates a vacuum." - Actually Evangelista Torricelli said "Nature abhors a vacuum" in 1638 to explain why his invention, the mercury barometer, worked. (He actually proved just the opposite. A letter from Simone Hochreiter reminded me that the concept goes back to Aristotle, who in the fourth book of Physics (c. 350 BCE) carefully explained why a "void" is not possible. By the middle ages it was being referred to as "horror vacuum." Torricelli inverted a tube filled with mercury into a pool of the same. The level fell a certain distance then stopped. He reasoned that it was not the "abhorence of a vacuum" that was keeping the rest from falling, but was instead the weight of the atmosphere pushing down on the surface of the pool.) (And yes, this will be on the final exam. Class dismissed.)

Chapter 22:

  • "Oh, to be torn ‘tween love and duty, ‘sposin I lose my fair-haired beauty." - From the theme song to the 1952 movie High Noon. See Lyrics.

Chapter 23:

  • "Harry the horse." - Spenser doesn't care who takes over the heroin trade, "horse" is old fashioned slang for heroin, so this one went right by me, but Iain Campbell writes: "A mention for Harry the Horse, a personage beloved of all who enjoy 'Guys and Dolls.'" Dennis Tallett adds a bit of background: "Harry the Horse appears first in Damon Runyon's short story, "Butch Minds The Baby". In the story, he and two others employ Butch to open the coal company safe. (Runyon's short story) "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" (was adapted) into the musical "Guys and Dolls" taking Harry the Horse in the previous story and putting him on stage." Just to fill this out, the musical Guys and Dolls, (book by Abe Burrows, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser) was based on the short stories written by Damon Runyon, opened on Broadway 24 Nov. 1950 and ran for 1200 performances. The thing I find fascinating is that most of the plot was extrapolated from the above mentioned "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown," which was all of three pages long.

Chapter 26:

Chapter 28:

  • "Hawk was like an MX dense pack." - The MX missile was the cornerstone of America's nuclear arsenal. This high yield Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (called by President Ronald Reagan "the peacemaker") was meant to deter the Soviet Union (dubbed "the evil empire" by Pres. Ron, I will refer to them as "the enemy".) One plan to keep them from being knocked out with a first strike was to build many thousands of silos and shuttle the missiles on hidden underground railroads so the enemy couldn't be sure where they were. Of course this would be wildly expensive, take over vast amounts of the country, and could be overcome by the enemy building more bombs to take out every possible silo, which would lead to massive escalation on both sides. The other course called for a "dense pack," a plan to keep all of the silos relatively close together. You can't throw a lot of missiles at it because they would all have to funnel down to the same place and the first explosion would eliminate the others, leaving us with enough left to launch a counter attack. In other words, Hawk had a lot of firepower within easy reach.

Chapter 30:

  • "Saturday night is the loneliest night of the week." - The title of a song written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne. A Frank Sinatra standard. See Lyrics

Chapter 31:

  • "Tom Mix never lost his [cowboy hat]." - Cindy Forman provided the following biography: Tom Mix was the first of the colorful, escapist motion picture cowboys. His film career spanned 25 years from 1910 to 1935. During that time he starred in between 300 and 400 films. An exact number is not known as few of his films exist today. Many of them have deteriorated, and others were disposed of by the studios. Regardless of the precise count, Tom Mix's film output was phenomenal.
  • "A nation of sheep." - The title of a book by William J. Lederer, published in 1961. "No such thing as too much money or too many bullets." - Iain Campbell points out that this is a reference to Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor's remark that "A woman can never be too thin or too rich."
  • "Hit and run, sting like a wasp, run like a rabbit, or something." - Iain also noted that this ties to Mohammed Ali's "Float like a butterfly" line. See it in Oft Quoted.
  • "Death had very little sting left." - A reference to 1 Corinthians 15:55 "O death, where is thy sting?"

Chapter 32:

  • "But vandalism marches to the beat of its own drummer." - See Oft Quoted

Chapter 36:

  • "Physician, heal thyself" - It's from Luke 4:23.

Chapter 38:

  • "Where was Mr. Keen when I needed him." - BJ Vinson noted this one. It refers to the radio show "Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons" which ran on radio from 1939-1955. Read about it at

Chapter 40:

  • "I'm as restless as a willow in a windstorm." - A line from It Might as Well be Spring by Rogers and Hammerstein. See Lyrics
  • "Svengali." - An evil hypnotist who turns a young woman into a famous singer and lives off her earnings in the 1894 novel Trilby by George Du Maurier. Read much more about turn of the century attitudes toward hypnotism at Thanks to Iain for pointing this out.

Chapter 41:

  • "What if Mickey Paulz worked for Winston? ...Then everything was possible." - Well, Jesus is quoted as saying in Matthew 19:26 "with God all things are possible" and in Mark 9:23 as saying: "Everything is possible for him who believes." (BTW: I was going to put in that famous Dostoevsky quote "If God did not exist anything is possible" except that he never wrote it. I found a very well done research paper on the subject at )

Chapter 42:

  • "Music beyond a distant hill" - It escaped me, but Nicholas Allen writes: "(It's) from Wordsworths' Michael: 'Make subterraneous music, like the noise/Of bagpipers on distant Highland hills.'"Then again Dennis Tallet has this to say: "(This) sounds very much like Raymond Chandler writing as a non-mystery writer and knowing Robert Parker is a follower, here is what I think he is parodying: '...left no echo, evoked no image beyond a distant hill." Raymond Chandler in an essay The Simple Art of Murder writing about Dashiell Hammett.'" Another source expanded on that just a bit: "A decade after Hammett, in 1933, Raymond Chandler appeared in Black Mask. If Hammett bequeathed the American detective story a distinct voice, then Chandler honed it and pushed it toward greater literary respectability. He had read Hammett and respected his work, but, '... the American language ... can say things he did not know how to say, or feel the need of saying. In his hands it had no overtones, left no echo, evoked no image beyond a distant hill.'" Very good, but to my eyes it looks like Chandler is citing an earlier source. Is it Wordsworth or someone else? The question remains open.

Chapter 43:

  • "The stuff that dreams are made of." - See Oft Quoted

Chapter 44:

  • "Human voices wake us, and we drown" - See Oft Quoted and Poetry (The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock)

Chapter 46:

  • "The past is painful, maybe even fraudulent, the future is uncertain..." - It looks to me like Live for Life, the title song from a 1967 French movie which was a follow-up to director Claude Lelouche's A Man and a Woman. Written by Norman Gimbel and Francis Albert Lai, it has since become a standard and I've found versions by Tony Bennett, Jack Jones, Robert Goulet, and Les Brown. "Yesterday's a mem'ry gone for good forever/while tomorrow is a guess/What is real is what is here and now,/the here and now is all that we possess/So take my hand and we will taste the moment /if for just the moment's happiness" See Lyrics

Chapter 47:

  • "Knowledge is power." - Iain Campbell points out that Francis Bacon said as much in 1597. "Ipsa scientia potestas est."
  • "Pretty to think so." - Rita gets to say it this time. See Oft Quoted.

Meanwhile, in the Spenser UniverseEdit

  • When Spenser came back from Los Angeles after the Candy Sloan murder, it took Vince Haller six months to straighten things out with the LAPD and everyone else involved.
  • Spenser believes that horses would have saved "Return of the Jedi". :-)
  • Spenser is continuing his attempt to cut back on coffee by adding more milk and sugar to the coffee instead of drinking less.
  • Iain Campbell points out "a delightfully realistic Spenser moment, as he looks around to make sure no one is watching before he slips on his half reading glasses." Note that except here and in Crimson Joy they are never mentioned again.
  • We've always known Spenser was very strong, with his weight-lifting and all, but we now know that he is very strong, and capable of breaking a woman's neck with one hand (Sherry). Of course, adrenaline always helps, but bear in mind that he was able to do this with two bullets in his chest as well. Pretty impressive.
  • Spenser has lost all will to live, and is mainly holding on through curiosity alone, and a desire to see the case through to the end. He keeps mentioning throughout the story that he doesn't care if he dies, and is making even Hawk worried. However, there is a ray of hope at the end. Susan says that her boyfriend out west has gone back to his wife, and that she (Susan) wants Spenser to come visit her. So we end on a high note.
  • Actually, you could call this one a two-parter, as things are resolved in the next story, A Catskill Eagle, with Spenser going out west after Susan when she gets in trouble. Read on...

Favorite LinesEdit

Chapter 4: Maybe Hawk's standards are too low

"The whole place was getting out of hand. There were women in there now as well as men. There was a lounge where you could sit around in a velour sweat suit and drink carrot juice, there had been complaints that the speed bag in the boxing room made too much noise, and some of the people working on the Nautilus wore Lacoste shirts. Hawk had told Henry that if anyone came in to work out wearing Top-Siders that he, Hawk, would demand a refund on his membership.
'Hawk,' Henry said, 'you come here free.'
'Fucking place is full of guys in tennis shorts,' Hawk said.
'Hell, you even get the tanning booth free,' Henry said.
Hawk looked at him. 'Wimp city,' he said, and walked away.
'He just don't understand upscale,' Henry said."

Chapter 5: Disco Spenser

"'You ought to date,' Paul said.
'How about I get a Qiana shirt and some gold chains and tight pants with no pockets...'
'And a bulger,' Paul said.
'Yeah,' I said, 'and shoes with Cuban heels, and maybe have my hair styled and blow-dried.'
'On the other hand,' Paul said, 'maybe you hadn't ought to date.'"

Chapter 7: Attitude? What attitude?

"I looked out the window. The dark-haired art director in the ad agency across the street was conferring over her board with two colleagues. Too busy to look in my window. Probably resigning. Probably going to take a job in Miami doing bilingual dope ads."

Chapter 7: We do what we can...

"She was a very large boned, tall woman, and she had managed to keep her weight up. She was probably fifty-five and wore a loose-fitting dress with a small gray print in it, and a large straw hat. For her to find a loose-fitting dress was something of a triumph, I thought. She wore a lot of makeup, badly applied. There was lipstick on her teeth. If she had been a dancer, it must have been in Fantasia."

Chapter 9: They must have a very interesting ad campaign for these...

"She was wearing high-heeled shoes with no backs and her tan legs were bare. Not bad hips for a religious zealot. Susan had told me that those kind of shoes were called fuck-me shoes. 'On the assumption that you didn't want to order them in quite that way to a saleslady at Filene's,' I had said, 'what else would you call them?' Susan had said that she'd simply have to find some and point. She'd never heard them called anything else. Probably called hold-my-hand shoes here."

Chapter 11: What about three fingers?

"The Escort was getting a little far ahead and I passed a Chevy wagon with kids in the back making a V sign at me. It had no meaning anymore and the kids probably didn't know why they made it. But two fingers were better than one."

Chapter 20: Add another name on his buddy list

"I called Vinnie Morris. 'What do you know about Paultz Construction company?" I said.
'Why ask me?" Vinnie said.
'Because they're crooks and so are you. Figured you might have crossed paths.
'Spenser,' Vinnie said, 'You got a big pair of balls. Last year Joe Broz and I discussed acing you. Now you call up and ask for a favor.'
'What are friends for, Vinnie?'"

Chapter 23: I tried to tell the President that but would he listen? No.

"'Is Hawk the negro who told me Paulz had to see me?'
'The one who was with you when you took the pictures?'
'He'll guard me alone?'
'He could guard Yugoslavia alone,' I said."

Chapter 27: Law, defined.

"Vince Haller drew up a trust agreement for me that was twenty-eight pages long and read like the Rosetta Stone.
'They give courses in gobbledygook at law school?' I said.
'Law school is gobbledygook,' Haller said. 'No need for a special course.'
'If it had been written by a sentient being, what would it say?'"

Chapter 28: Such a ringing endorsement

"Vinnie Morris had promised two men on Bullard Winston around the clock and whatever else Vinnie was, he was good for what he said.
'Vinnie tell you something, you can take it to the morgue,' Hawk said."

Chapter 31: Of course Tom only skidded Tony the Wonder Horse sideways into a pile of steel girders in a few of the lesser known films

"The cowboy hat had long since gone. I didn't remember it falling off. They didn't make them like they used to. Tom Mix never lost his."
(thanks to Cindy Forman for adding this quote)

Chapter 38: Take Spenser, add whiskey, instant philosopher

"I got my bottle of Old Bushmill out of my desk and had a small snort from the bottle. Decisive. Not a man to sit around and do nothing. I had another small tap from the bottle neck.
I hadn't seen Linda Thomas since the shootout in the weeds. Broad had no sense of adventure. She'd liked Darth Vader okay. What was wrong with me.
I had some more whiskey.
Nice date. We'll go to the movies and after, I'll shoot four guys. Linda probably wanted to get a snack afterward. No imagination. Sit around, eat and drink. Get logy. Probably take in too much salt and saturated fats. Movies and a shootout, now that was different. If you skipped butter on the popcorn, it was cholesterol-free, non-fattening, and low-sodium."

Chapter 39: Thirty days parts and labor

"I turned back to Banks.
'I'll look into it,' I said.
'You took all my money last time and found shit,' Banks said. 'You cleaned me out.'
'No charge this time,' I said. 'You're still under warranty.'"

Chapter 41: Discipline and control...

"My living room was littered with records and Paul and Paige were lying among them listening to Anita Ellis and Ellis Larkins. It was an album Paul had bought me as a half joking Father's Day gift. They were drinking jug wine and smoking. I sniffed.
'I believe I sense the presence in this room of a controlled substance,' I said.
'You going to shoot us?' Paige said.
'With the price of bullets the way it is,' I said, 'I'll let you off with a vicious beating.'
Paige grinned at me. 'Oooh, good,' she said. 'I'm really into that.'"

Chapter 41: Drug "abushe"

"I didn't know a fact. I didn't know who was with whom or who was in charge of what or who was good and who was bad and what to do. Maybe I should forget about it and lecture the kids on drug abuse. I tried saying drug abuse and slurred the s, and decided to forgo the lecture."

Chapter 42: The value of a good holster

"We went in Hawk's Jaguar. As he drove he unlocked the glove compartment and took out a 9-millimeter automatic and put it in his lap.
'You could tuck it in your jock,' I said.
'No room,' Hawk said. 'You want to tell me who to shoot?'
'Christ,' I said, 'I don't know. Everybody but me, I think.'"

Chapter 45: You mean there's something Hawk isn't good at?

"'The next time I woke up Linda was gone and so was Belson. Hawk was there and Paul. As I came out of the sleep I heard Paul's voice, softly.
'No, like this, shuffle, ball, change. You see, shuffle, ball, change.' I heard his feet move lightly on the hospital floor. 'How can a man with your heritage not be able to tap-dance.'
I heard Hawk's gliding chuckle. 'My ancestors busy eating missionaries, boy. We didn't have no time for no fucking shuffle ball change.'
'Well, you wanted me to show you.'
'That's before I knew you was going to do it better than me,' Hawk said."


  • Chapter 1: Chicken salad at Susan's commencement. ("'s awful...but the servings are small.")
  • Chapter 2: French bread, wheat crackers and goat cheese, nectarines, green seedless grapes at his place.
  • Chapter 5: Cold poached salmon fillets with dill mayonnaise, boiled new potatoes and peapods at home.
  • Chapter 7: Lobster salad at the Ritz Cafe.
  • Chapter 10: Two pieces of cherry pie at the Blue Bell restaurant in Middleton.
  • Chapter 13: Fresh squeezed orange juice and a corn muffin at home ("Making breakfast seemed too complicated.")
  • Chapter 20: Steak, salad and French bread at Linda's apartment.
  • Chapter 21: Whole wheat toast at the Paramount restaurant.
  • Chapter 34: Whole wheat cinnamon and raisin bagels, all natural cream cheese, water-decaffeinated coffee.
  • Chapter 36: Bean soup at home.
  • Chapter 37: Coffee with lots of milk and sugar. I only mention it because he's weaning himself off coffee, so we'll never see it referred to again :)


  • Chapter 1: Beer at the commencement.
  • Chapter 2: Cuvee Dom Perignon 1971 at his apartment.
  • Chapter 4: Irish whiskey on the rocks at J.J. Donovan's
  • Chapter 5: He may have had a bottle of Rolling Rock Extra Pale with dinner. Irish whiskey afterward.
  • Chapter 7: Irish whiskey at the Ritz bar. Two more in the cafe, then beer.
  • Chapter 10: Irish whiskey for supper at home.
  • Chapter 13: Old India Pale Ale at Winston's house.
  • Chapter 14: Brandy at the Bay Tower Room.
  • Chapter 17: A couple of beers at the Parker House.
  • Chapter 20:
    • Watched a Carta Blanca go flat at Acapulco's.
    • At Linda Thomas' place:
      • Single malt scotch
      • Beaujolais with dinner
      • Sambuca with coffee
  • Chapter 27: Bushmill's Black Label Irish whiskey at his lawyer's office.
  • Chapter 38: Bushmill's in his office.
  • Chapter 40: Beer and Irish whiskey at the Harvard Gardens.
  • Chapter 41: Whiskey and beers at home.


  • The flashbacks in Chapter 44 are taken from earlier Spenser novels, and go as follows:
  1. A Savage Place, Chapter 25 - Candy Sloan gets shot and killed while Spenser is blundering around in the oil fields.
  2. A Savage Place, Chapter 9 - Spenser and Candy dance on her balcony.
  3. Promised Land, Chapter 28 - Spenser proposes to Susan.
  4. A Savage Place, Chapter 25 - Spenser finds Candy's body. Some bodyguard.
  5. A Savage Place, Chapter 26 - Spenser walks away from Candy's body.
  • Perhaps it's because of my own Liberal tendencies, but I came to respect Linda Thomas all the more when she noted that "a man named Hawk" was one of those who kept watch over Spenser in the hospital. Very few people before or since in these books ever refer to him without mentioning that he's "a black man."
  • Iain Campbell notes that things have changed for the better since 1984 and Bushmills Black Label can now be purchased outside of Ireland. To quote: "And a sweet and lovely beverage it is too, begorah."
  • Oops: Bruce Kulwich noticed an error in ch. 30/31: "Parker miscounts Spenser's bullets in the long chase scene that started at the theater. Seems to have forgotten the first shot as he sped away from the theater." Yep. He fired one shot through his passenger side window at the Buick and sped off. After wrecking his car he shot the bearded guy and noted he had four bullets left, having started with five.
  • Those golden days of yore: Rita Fiore lights up a cigarette in Spenser's hospital room. Nowadays they'd lead her away in manacles.
  • Those less than golden days of yore: Cindy Forman points out that interest rates on mortgages back then were positively frightening by today's standards: "Spenser discovers that the mortgage loans for $3.5 million were loaned 'at less than ten percent, five or six points below market.' Yes, folks, in 1981 and 1982 rates went as high as 16%, and even higher."
  • Show me the money: Tommy Banks paid Spenser for the first part of the adventure. The later part he did for free because Tommy was still under warranty

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