- "Usually," Joe was saying, "you are in the way, and it surprises me to this fucking moment that I haven't had someone whack you."
- "Everyone makes mistakes," I said.
- "And every time I talk to you and listen to your smart mouth it surprises me more." --Pastime
Joe Broz is one of Boston's most powerful organized crime bosses. He first appears in The Godwulf Manuscript and he reappears periodically throughout the entire series. Broz maintains an office, Continental Consulting on State Street, and is always surrounded by an assortment of very dangerous men.
In most of his encounters with Broz, Spenser finds something theatrical or phony about Broz. Broz is a man of middle height with a deep voice "like the guys that call up and give you a recorded sales pitch on the phone." Broz clearly sees himself as a sort of old-fashioned Godfather-type figure. He is the kind of crime boss who offers you a drink in his office and then sends people to kill you shortly thereafter.
Broz is an interesting figure for a couple of reasons. First, he is one of the few characters in the Spenser series who experiences a significant arc over time. Many "important" organized crime figures either appear in a single book (e.g. Harry Cotton in Early Autumn and Julius Ventura in Chance) and then vanish, or recur essentially unchanged over decades (Tony Marcus). Broz starts out as a major crime lord, and by the 18th book (Pastime) is visibly aging, but still maintains a major operation. The end of this book, however, sees Broz lose his extremely competent second in command (Vinnie Morris) and realize that his son Gerry isn't up to the task of taking over the Broz empire. Over succeeding books his influence continues to ebb; in Chance he's running a visibly diminished operation, and working as a paid consultant for the Russian mob, which is seeking advice on moving into Boston. (Broz makes sure they know his own operations are off limits.)
Other crime bosses are often said to have "taken over what Broz left behind" (Julius Ventura, Chance; Sonny Karnovsky, Back Story; Gino Fish, Small Vices). Clearly, Broz controlled a lot of the Boston crime scene.
The other interesting part about Joe Broz is that he's one of the few characters who's aware of The Code but isn't fully part of it. He has a sense of the importance of debt, and of the value of keeping your word, but doesn't quite value either. This is likely because a central tenet of The Code is authenticity, and Broz is simply inauthentic to his core, playing a role at all times. This is why Vinnie Morris, who does get The Code, ultimately leaves Broz's service rather than go up against Spenser. (Which is lucky for Spenser, because Vinnie doesn't miss when he shoots.)
Joe Broz, 'the Godfather of Boston,' casts a long shadow.