Pale Kings and Princes  
Series Spenser
Publisher Delacorte Press
Publication date 1987
Media type hardcover
ISBN 0-385-29538-3
Preceded by Taming a Sea Horse
Followed by Crimson Joy

Cover InformationEdit

"as always for Joan, and Dan, and Dave, and this time too, for Kathy"

Taken from the jacket flap of the hardcover edition

"A reporter who was prying into the cocaine trade the the central Massachusetts town of Wheaton has been murdered, and Spenser is called in to investigate. When he's rebuffed by the police and threatened by a Colombian produce dealer who may be the cocaine kingpin, it's apparent that Wheaton isn't just another small town, but a major center for the cocaine trade in the Northeast.

As Spenser digs deeper for evidence, he meets three women on whom the case seems to turn: Emmy Esteva, the wife of the reputed cocaine kingpin; Juanita Olmos, a young woman who'd been involved with the murdered reporter; and Caroline Rogers, the wife of the Wheaton Police Chief.

After another murder is committed and an attempt is made on Spenser's life, he turns for help to Hawk, whose special skills keep them all alive, and to Susan, whose psychological insights are more and more necessary as the chase moves away from cocaine and appears to hinge more on older and more basic problems - jealousy, passion, and hate.

Pale Kings and Princes, the fourteenth Spenser novel, takes us into the cutthroat, multibillion-dollar cocaine business, where drugs are valued above all and human life is frighteningly dispensable"

Taken from the back cover of the paperback edition:

"A young hotshot reporter was dead. He had gone to take a look-see at 'Miami North'--little Wheaton, Massachusetts--the biggest cocaine distribution center above the Mason/Dixon line.

Spenser's job was to find out if the kid died for getting too close to the truth...or to a sweet lady with a jealous husband. But when he showed up in Wheaton, he faced both crooked cops and the kind of muscle only money can buy. Even with Hawk's help and Susan's sharp eye, the prognoses for this case was guarded...deadly in extremis for a detective caught in a snowstorm of drugs, passion, and hate."

Fun fact: The location of this fictional novel is actually based on Ware, MA. (not on the cover)

Recurring CharactersEdit

  • Susan is a valuable asset in this case, offering psychological counseling to a woman who loses her husband and son to the Wheaton drug lords.
  • Hawk does some bodyguard duty for Spenser.
  • Rita Fiore (cf. Valediction) provides some information on the drug trade before Spenser goes into Wheaton.
  • Detective Samuelson, LAPD (cf. A Savage Place) is briefly mentioned.
  • Henry Cimoli doesn't mind that Spenser is storing 200 kilos of cocaine in the basement of the Harbor Health Club.
  • Lieutenant Healy tells Trooper Lundquist that Spenser may be able to help the investigation.

Unanswered QuestionsEdit

  • Did Spenser actually kill the Rottweiler? Or did he just stun him? Idle prying minds want to know. (Jacob Sconyers writes: "My opinion: have you every felt the dense skull and heavily muscled neck of an adult Rottweiler? That dog ain't dead, he's just restin' a spell." The American Humane Association will be glad to know that no fictional animals were harmed during the typing of this novel.)

Literary References, or "The Annotated Gumshoe"Edit

Significance of the Title: "I saw pale kings and princes too, / Pale warriors, death-pale were they all; / Who cried--'La belle Dame sans Merci / Hath thee in thrall'" - John Keats, La Belle Dame Sans Merci [1821]. I'm not sure of the reference here. The poem itself: "La Belle Dame sans Merci" (French: "The Beautiful Merciless Lady"), is about a young man pining away for love of an elf-maiden.

However, Peter Nover writes: "The title of Pale Kings and Princes: Parker's novel is an exploration and expansion of the themes that are to be found in Keats' poem. For a very fine article on the multiple layers of meaning that Keats' poem offers for an interpretation of RBP's novel, see: D.M. Bakker, "In Thrall to 'La Belle Dame sans Merci: In Pale Kings and Princes, Robert B. Parker struggles to reconcile a poetic sensibility with harsh reality", The Armchair Detective 25 (3) (Summer 1992), 296-300. Ms Bakker writes: "[...] we must now consider in more detail what 'la belle dame' or 'the fair lady' represents. In the novel, as in the poem, the 'fair' lady takes on many guises. In Keats' poem, she is, on one level the faerie creature who ensnares the knight. Similarily, in Pale Kings and Princes, cocaine might be seen as such a faerie creature. Cocaine [...] is the mistress of Wheaton. It is the 'White Lady' and 'Snow Queen' to whom all pay homage. [...] [T]he pale kings and princes of the knight's dream are, in Parker's novel, the kingpins of Wheaton's cocaine trade. The lines, 'I saw pale kings and princes, too/Pale warriors, death pale were they all,' aptly describe Wheaton's cocaine merchants. Their pale visages remind us of the pale powder or 'snow' they sell; Parker's use of 'snow' as a euphemism for cocaine, and the 'snowmen' to refer to the dealers, serves to remind us of the coldness of Keats' lonely hillside - his allusion to death"."

Chapter 1:

  • "The sun that brief December day shone weakly through the west-facing window of Garrett Kingsley's office." - Peggy Morgan wrote in to note: "This is from James Greenleaf Whittier's 'Snowbound.' The first two lines of the poem are: 'The sun that brief December day/Rose cheerless over hills of gray.'" (Yes indeed. At 758 lines it's too long for my Poetry page but you can read it at
  • "Kingsley took a corncob pipe from one of his vest pockets and a pouch of Cherry Blend...lit the pipe with a kitchen match...that he scratched into flame with his thumbnail. I shall return." - Contributor Frank G. Wilkes submitted that cut-down version and kindly pointed out that I had once again overlooked the obvious:
"This is a reference to General Douglas McArthur who smoked a corncob pipe and said, when he left the Philippines, 'I shall return.'"

Chapter 2:

  • "Focus...they hardly even know us." - This joke has probably been floating around in a fixing bath since the days of daguerrotypes, but Malette Poole wrote in with a classic version: This goes back to an old joke, really old joke. My uncle, who is 81 now, says he first heard it when he was a teenager. Seems the Country Cousin comes to see the City Cousin. In the course of events, they decide to have a picture made. They pose, and the photographer goes under the black veil. They are told to sit really still. The Country Cousin asks what he is doing (out of the side of her mouth) and is told by the City Cousin, "He's going to focus." The Country Cousin replies, again out of the side of her mouth (so as to minimize movement) "Bofus?" When I first heard it in the mid-sixties it had evolved to two Swedish girls and the punchline was "you can take our picture, but you can't focus."
  • "A man alone doesn't have much chance" - To Have and Have Not: spoken by Harry Morgan. Fallon is totally unaware that he has paraphrased Harry's last words in chapter 23 of the book by Earnest Hemingway. Harry is delirious, slowly dying from a gunshot wound in the stomach, and the best he can sum up his thoughts is "No matter how a man alone ain't got no bloody fucking chance." And no, Humphrey Bogart never uttered those lines in the movie of the same name. It reminds me quite strongly of the difference between the Spenser books and the TV series/movies derived from them. Howard Hawks directed the movie and I found the following on "Hemingway had bet Hawks that Hawks couldn't film this novel. Hawks did it by deleting most of the story, including the class references that would justify the title, and shifting to an earlier point in the lives of the lead characters." In other words he borrowed the title and prestige of the author and went off in another direction entirely. Of course any film that includes a musical number by Hoagy Carmichael gets an automatic one-up in my book.

Chapter 5:

  • "I smelled a cover-up. Spenser, Private Nose" - Apparently Parker and I have done the same field work on humor as it is affected by alcohol. Jacob Sconyers pointed out the next three variations on the theme. "Have nose will travel." This is a reference the television series "Have Gun-Will Travel" which ran from 1957 to 1963. Kevin Burton Smith has, as always, posted a very good summary on his web site. See
  • "Cyrano de Spenser" - A reference to the 1897 French play "Cyrano de Bergerac" by Edmond Rostand whose title character was over-endowed in the nasal area. The original is quite tragic but of all the movie versions I remember it best as the inspiration for "Roxanne" starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah.
  • "Only the nose knows" - From the 1930 to 1954 radio show "The Shadow" with the signature line "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows." For more information see
And for fans of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels there is the internal dialogue of Sam Vimes and the unheard voice of DEATH in Night Watch: "Who really knew what evil lurked in the heart of men? ME. Who knew what sane men were capable of? STILL ME, I'M AFRAID."

Chapter 6:

  • "I felt like Little Lord Fauntleroy chugging along." - Jacob Sconyers notes the children's book Little Lord Fauntleroy written in 1886 by Francis Eliza Hodgson Burnett, and adapted to film and TV numerous times. A fatherless seven year old from New York City is summoned to England and learns that he has inherited a title and all that goes with it, including Victorian outfits a bit fancier than were popular in America.
  • "Give me your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free." - Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus, Inscription on the Statue of Liberty. Written in 1883 to raise money for the pedestal; it is carved there: "Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame/Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand/Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command/The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame./"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she/With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,/I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
  • "Honesty is the best policy" - Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha [1605-1615], Book III, Chapter 33, p. 666 (paraphrased: the line as appearing in my Bartlett's was "Honesty's the best policy," but then again, Spanish doesn't usually abbreviate well, so it might have been as quoted by Spenser. Who knows?).

Chapter 7:

  • "Are you Ton Ton Macoutes?" - The ruthless private army of Francois Duvalier ("Papa Doc"), longtime dictator of Haiti. Torture and killings were all in a days work.

Chapter 8:

  • "No strangers here...just friends you haven't met yet." - Hisao Tomihari found this this quote from Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939): "There are no strangers here, only friends you have not yet met."

Chapter 10:

  • "Stay close to me, little lady, I'll get you through." - John Wayne, of course. Jacob Sconyers thinks it might be from "True Grit" but we'll wait for confirmation.
  • "Always a silver lining." - Hisao Tomihara found it. See Oft Quoted

Chapter 11:

  • "Susan had a new car" - Jason Hebrard took the clues given in the book and tracked it down:
"A 1987 Mitsubishi Starion ESI-R. I am absolutely 100% sure of this, as I am a bit of an expert on these particular cars. This was the only Japanese turbo-intercooled car with digital climate and steering wheel audio controls available in the US at the time. I also owned one and knew the car immediately from Mr. Parker's description in the book."
  • "I love a parade." - The title of a song, music by Harold Arlen, words by Ted Koehler, somewhere between 1930 and 1934 for a Review at the Cotton Club, a famous Harlem nightspot. See Lyrics
  • "I'm pure of heart" - Hisao Tomihari found this one. See Oft Quoted

Chapter 12:

  • "Gabriel Heatter" - Journalist and radio news broadcaster most famous in the World War II era.
Dennis Tallet, after correcting my original misspelling wrote: "Heatter (1890-1972). Broadcaster with instant fame in 1936 and a nightly following during WWII. 'Ah, there's good news tonight,' was his opener."

Chapter 13:

  • "I shut the thing off, electronically and sang a couple of bars of 'Midnight Sun.'" - Jacob Sconyers notes: "Refers to the jazz standard composed by Lionel Hampton and Sonny Burke (1947), with lyrics by none other than Johnny Mercer (1954)." See Lyrics

Chapter 17:

  • "Every time I drove the Pike I thought of William Pynchon and that gang heading west through the hills to settle Springfield." - Jacob Sconyers submitted the following excerpt from the Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001: "William Pynchon: c.1590-1662, American colonist and theologian, b. England. An original patentee and assistant in the Massachusetts Bay Company, he migrated to America in 1630, where he helped found Roxbury and served as treasurer of the colony (1632-34). In 1636 he settled, and was commissioned to govern, a plantation at the confluence of the Connecticut and Agawam rivers, which he called Agawam but which was renamed Springfield in 1641. Through a flourishing fur trade he increased an already considerable fortune. While visiting England (1650), he published The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption, which expressed his liberal views of the atonement. The book was denounced as heretical and ordered burned in Massachusetts. Relenting somewhat but refusing to retract all of his opinions, Pynchon left his property to his son John and other children and returned permanently (1652) to England."
  • "high cold stars" - From The Open Boat by Stephen Crane. "A high cold star on a winter's night" symbolized how little Nature cared about the fate of a small group of shipwreck survivors in a life boat. In the cold parking lot Spenser may have been having similar feelings. Crane (1871-1900) also wrote The Red Badge of Courage and died much too young.

Chapter 18:

  • "quiet and slow time." - Brenda Powell came through on this one: "This should be 'silence and slow time,' and is from Ode on a Grecian Urn by Keats." (Very well done, Brenda. The oft-mentioned poem is on the Poetry page.)

Chapter 19:

  • "Veritas" - Latin for "truth," this is also the motto of Harvard University.

Chapter 20:

  • "Complacencies of the peignoir, and late / Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair." - Wallace Stevens, Sunday Morning [1923], stanza 1. See Poetry
  • "Mingled to dissipate the holy hush of ancient sacrifice" - same source as the above.

Chapter 23:

  • "Death is the mother of beauty." Wallace Stevens, Sunday Morning, stanza 5. See Poetry and Oft Quoted.
  • "And the mortal parts of it are what makes it work you'll do. It's what makes it matter. If it didn't have mortal consequences it would bore you." - As Jacob Sconyers pointed out this rings once again of "the work is play for mortal stakes." See Oft Quoted

Chapter 24:

  • "Horatio Alger" - a prolific 19th-century American writer, best known for his many young adult novels about impoverished boys and their rise from humble backgrounds to lives of middle-class security and comfort through hard work, determination, courage, and honesty.
  • "A slut, a tramp, a scarlet woman." - Jacob Sconyers noted the origins of this in Revelations 17:4-5 "And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication; And upon her forehead was a name written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS, AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."
  • "You ain't seen nothing yet." - Although this is a commonly used phrase Hisao Tomihari notes that it probably comes from Al Jolson's line "you ain't heard nothing yet." It is justly famous, being Al's first spoken words in one of the first ever talking pictures, The Jazz Singer (1927) and one he used throughout his career.

Chapter 25:

Chapter 28:

  • "They call me Mr. Tibbs" - reference to the movie of the same name starring Sidney Poitier. That one was a sequel, and the title is based on the best known line of its predecessor, In the Heat of the Night.

Chapter 29:

  • "All for one and one for all." - The most famous line from The Three Musketeers, published in 1844 by Alexandre Dumas.

Chapter 30:

  • "Hearts full of passion, jealousy and hate." - As Time Goes By from one of my favorite movies, Casablanca (1942). Words and music by Herman Hupfield, it was a career maker for Dooley Wilson. See Lyrics

Chapter 30:

Chapter 32:

  • "My friend is a ptarmigan hunter." - The ptarmigan is a game bird generally found above the Arctic circle and traditionally hunted by Inuits, so Hawk in a winter outfit with a gun fits, but I am obviously missing a better known source.

Chapter 35:

  • "I have promises to keep." - Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. See Oft Quoted and Poetry. Interestingly, Mark Collins wrote in to note that they changed this line in the TV movie version: "I recently saw the adaptation of Pale Kings and Princes and at the end just before Spenser shoots Esteve he says "I have miles to go before I sleep."

Chapter 36:

  • "He thinks I'm the greatest hero since Elijah Parish Lovejoy." - A Yankee newspaper owner might very well think so. Lovejoy was a nineteenth century Presbyterian Minister and abolitionist whose newspaper took a very anti-slavery stance. His printing presses had been destroyed three times by angry mobs and in 1837 he was killed defending the building his new press was housed in.

Meanwhile, in the Spenser UniverseEdit

  • Spenser's on an American beer binge, as evidenced by this book's "Broo List":
    • Chapter 2: Killian's Red Ale in the bar at the Parker House. Sure, it's an Irish red, but it's brewed by Coors, so there.
    • Chapter 4: Draft beer, at the bar at the Reservoir Court in Wheaton. Ho hum.
    • Chapter 5: Sam Adams, in Spenser's room at the Reservoir Court. Now that's good drinking!
    • Chapter 8: Budweiser long-neck, in a Spanish saloon in the Colombian part of Wheaton. Not what I'd call gourmet beer, but as Spenser says: "The worst beer I ever had was wonderful." You takes what you can get, I guess...
  • Susan shows that she can be very necessary at times. Spenser slips up a couple of times, and people die because of it. Susan is there to comfort and bolster Spenser's confidence, which is in sore need of a boost after the murders.
  • When Spenser agrees with Hawk's plan to whack the bad guys, this is one of the rare times that Spenser actually goes along with Hawk. Usually, Spenser has a hard time justifying killing someone like that. It's that chivalry thing again. Better to slay the bad guys than let the ladies be hurt.
  • Susan had moved from Smithfield to Cambridge in the previous year (Chapter 17.) Very little detail is given, but she has an office in town (Chapter 23) and lives in a Condo (Chapter 18). By the next book she will be established in the house on Linnaean Street.

Favorite LinesEdit

Chapter 2: ...I never touched her!!!

"'Could we focus on Wheaton a little more,' I said.
'Focus,' Rita said, 'they don't even know us.'"

Chapter 3: Sales of black arm bands would go through the roof

'Listen...Spenser. You start asking around in that neighborhood and you'll end up with your balls missing too.'
'League of Women Voters would sponsor a day of mourning,' I said."

Chapter 3: Well, it was either that or "where's the beef?" "'I don't give a fuck,' Rogers said.

'Bailey, I believe you. That's probably the departmental motto. But it's no help to me.'"

Chapter 5: Susan Silverman, ego deflator

'Tell me one thing, though, before we hang. Do you admire my restraint even more than you admire my sinewy body?'
'Yes,' Susan said.
'Let me rephrase the question,' I said.
Susan's laugh bubbled. 'Ask me if I love you,' she said.
'Do you love me?'
'Yes, I do.'
'Do I love you?'
'Yes, you do.'
'What a happy coincidence,' I said."

Chapter 7: Spenser, dentist

Both pairs of reflectors pointed at me. I could see myself in all four lenses. I put my face a little closer to J.D. so I could see my reflection better, and pulled my lips back and examined my teeth.
'You think you're a real jokester, don't you,' J.D. said.
'Yes,' I said. 'Good teeth, too. It;s the flossing mostly I think that accounts for it. If you do it after every meal...' I used a forefinger to pull my upper lip back to examine the left molars. J.D. pulled his head to the side.
'Cut it out,' he said.
'You can scoff,' I said, 'at oral hygiene if you want to...'

Chapter 8: Your friendly neighborhood dealer

'Hey, Wally,' I said, 'you wouldn't know where I might score a little coke in town here, would you?'
A new approach.
'Do I look like Frosty the fucking snowman?' Wally said.
Actually, Wally looked considerably like a toad, but I didn't think it would help matters to tell him that.

Chapter 10: Picture, if you will, another dimension...

When she travels Susan packs for all eventualities. An intimate dinner at the White House; a barbecue at the King Ranch; cocktails with Halston; white water rafting. She had them all covered. Not only outfits for all possibilities but full accessories, panty hose, shoes, lingerie, jewelry, hats, coats, gloves, belts. Her suitcase was like the clown car at the circus that keeps disgorging occupants far beyond any possible capacity it might have.

Chapter 10: Maybe a saucy little bottle of Thunderbird?

'You want wine with your dinner?' the waitress said.
'No thank you,' I said. I'd checked out the wines listed on the back of the menu. They ran to Andre and Cribari."

Chapter 10: Bas cuisine

I consulted my chicken potpie.
'What a disappointment,' I said to Susan.
'Canned?' Susan said?
'No, I was hoping for canned. I think they made this themselves.'

Chapter 11: Ahh, technology

"Susan had a new car, a bullet-shaped red Japanese sports car with a turbo-charged engine that would go from 0 to 5 million in 2.5 seconds. She blazed around in it like Chuck Yeager, but it scared me half to death and whenever I could I drove it with the cruise control set to fifty-five so it wouldn't creep up to the speed of light on me when I glanced at the road."

Chapter 13: Apparently, technology isn't everything...

As I drove west the late afternoon sun slanted directly in through the windshield, and even with sunglasses on and my Red Sox cap tilted way over my nose, I had trouble seeing the road. The car had a button to push so that the radio would scan the dial locating the local stations. It had a thermostatic heater/cooler so that you set the temperature digitally and it stayed that way winter and summer. It had cruise control and turbo intercooling and a beeper to remind you that your fly was open. But if you drove west in the late afternoon, it couldn't do a goddamned thing about the sun. I kind of liked that.

Chapter 13: Gotta love these cameos actors do...

After a while the guy in the cashmere coat said, 'Do you know who I am?'
'Ricardo Montalban,' I said.
They looked at me some more. I looked back.
'I loved you in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,' I said.
Cashmere glanced at Celtics Jacket. Celtics Jacket shrugged.
'My name is Felipe Esteva,' Cashmere said.
'I'll be goddamned,' I said. 'I'm never wrong about Ricardo. I saw him once outside the Palm on Santa Monica Boulevard. He was driving a Chrysler LeBaron and wearing a white coat just like that.' I shook my head. 'You sure?' I said.
The guy in the Celtics jacket leaned forward over the table and said, 'You are going to be in very big trouble.'
'Trouble?' I said. 'What for? It's an easy mistake to make. Especially with the white coat.'

Chapter 14: Nice that they could get together again

'Lieutenant Healy says you could probably help on this,' he said. 'Says you used to be a police officer.'
'Says they fired your ass, too,' Henry said. Lundquist's eyes shifted very briefly from me to him and back.
'And it came out here and made captain,' I said."
"So far so good. I had a recently widowed mother and her orphaned son crying hysterically. Maybe for an encore I could shoot the family dog."

Chapter 29: Modesty, thy name is Spenser

'How'd Caroline feel about you,' I said.
'Ambivalent,' Susan said. 'She's suspicious of shrinks. She'd rather you had been there.'
'Un huh.'
'She is under the impression that you can leap tall buildings at a single bound.'
'Well,' I said, 'not really tall buildings.'

Chapter 30: Have face, will travel

'Your car's back at the motel,' Hawk said to Susan.
'Yes. So are my clothes and my makeup. My God, my entire face is in the motel room.'
'No,' I said. 'Stay out of the motel room. If they got hold of you they'd use you to get me.'
'My entire face,' Susan said.
I said, 'Forget the face.'
We were all quiet for a space as the wipers made their idiosyncratic sweeps of the windshield.
'Okay,' Susan said. 'But you can't look at me again.'
'I'll stare only at your body,' I said.

Chapter 32: Enforcer psychology

'I come out here to whack a couple of dope pushers and I end up in encounter therapy,' Hawk said. 'Like hanging out with Dr. Ruth.'
'You'll get your turn,' I said.
'Spect I will,' Hawk said.

Chapter 32: Abducted by the snowsuit aliens?

...a young man and woman pulling a child on a sled. The child was so bundled up that its gender was a mystery and in fact its species was only a logical guess.

Chapter 34: You know, they're not doing much to dispel these racial stereotypes

Susan and Hawk and I went back to Boston, in Hawk's car.
'Shoulda got me a cap,' Hawk said. 'And practiced up saying yassah and opening the car door.'
'Leather puttees,' Susan said, 'I think you'd be simply scrumptious in leather puttees.'
'Yassum,' Hawk said.

Chapter 34: Perhaps he should patent it?

'Do you think you can get Caroline a job in Boston?'
'I'm going to talk to a man I know at Widener Library. It would be good, I think, to get her out of Wheaton.'
'Maybe she care to try my famous African beef injection,' Hawk said.
'Oh, oink,' Susan said.
'Yasum,' Hawk said.

Chapter 34: Spenser, not wanting to feel left out, jumps on the beef--er, bandwagon...

'There is, you know, also a therapy featuring Irish beef...'
'I'm familiar,' Susan said, 'with the treatment.'"

Chapter 35: Something to be proud of...

'Those mittens look pretty dumb,' Lundquist said.
'Everybody knows we gets cold easy,' Hawk said. 'We needs to bundle up.'
'That because of your African heritage?' I said.
'Naw,' Hawk said. 'Cause we got much bigger dicks than you honkies. More skin surface to keep warm.'


  • Chapter 5: Tuna salad and a dab of cole slaw on whole wheat in his hotel room. Also some bread and butter pickles ("green vegetables are important").
  • Chapter 8: A grilled cheese sandwich at Wally's Lunch.
  • Chapter 9: A gourmet Italian meal that got burned up along with his car. One turkey and one veggie submarine sandwich from the Quabin Sub Base. Sounds better than what he had to settle for.
  • Chapter 10: Chicken pot pie at the Reservoir Hunt Room.
  • Chapter 11: English muffin at Friendly's.
  • Chapter 17: Tuna on pumpernickel, turkey on whole wheat with lettuce and mayo in the car.
  • Chapter 20: Cornbread and honey at Susan's.
  • Chapter 36: Dining at the Colony Restaurant:
    • Corn oysters for an appetizer
    • Grilled lobster.


  • Chapter 2: Killian Red Ale downstairs at the Parker House.
  • Chapter 4: Draft beer at the Reservoir Court.
  • Chapter 5: Samuel Adams in his hotel room.
  • Chapter 8: An "authentic native Budweiser" long neck at a bar in the Hispanic part of town.
  • Chapter 10: Beer with dinner in the Reservoir Hunt Room.
  • Chapter 11: Sam Adams in the hotel bar.
  • Chapter 29: Beer at the hotel bar with Hawk.
  • Chapter 36: A bottle of Chicama wine at the Colony Restaurant. "Made right here in Massachusetts" he is assured. (see the note below)


  • Note Susan's psychotherapy session with Caroline Rogers in Chapter 31. "Let the tears come. See what comes with them." We'll be seeing that phrase again. One wonders if it's a standard method in psychotherapy. Just a thought...
  • If you're a local like me the Simon and Schuster audio cassettes read by David Purdham can be pure torture. The oft-mentioned Quabbin Reservoir is pronounced with a soft A, sorta like "Quaahbin." While driving to work I found myself shouting at the tape player "It's not 'Quaybin' you moron." If it were not a library copy I'd have hit it with a hammer. I have not yet been able to track down the Books On Tape version to see whether Michael Prichard got it right.
  • As I was pulling into my parking slot Hawk was driving on the Mass. Turnpike past Worcester, and it was pronounced "Wooster," just like a P.G. Wodehouse character. I wanted to cry.
  • I was clueless as to where RBP sited this book until I found an angel. I wrote to Linda Shea (see the Links page) and she E-mailed me that: "Yes we definitely went to Ware on purpose to hunt down 'Wheaton' and drove down its streets - everything he mentioned was exactly there as he said it was. It was pretty neat."
BTW: As I noted in God Save the Child, where Lynnfield became Smithfield, in the normal books he can get away with calling the towns what they are, but in this one the police chief turned out to be involved in corruption and murder. For legal reasons and to make very clear that this was a work of fiction he had to change the name.
  • The Chicama winery was on Martha's Vineyard, an island just off the coast which you can visit by taking the ferry from Wood's Hole to Vineyard Haven. (The original Bullets and Beer site had a link to the website, but the winery closed in 2008.)
  • Those golden days of Yore:
    • The Olympic Theater: two dollars at all times.
    • A teenage girl checked out a picture book about Ricky Nelson. Was that for an ancient history class?
    • For a grilled cheese sandwich and coffee the bill came to $2.25
    • Jacob Sconyers notes that Juanita Olmo smoked a cigarette in her Massachusetts DSS office without being summarily executed.
  • Show me the money: The Argus presumably cut him a rather handsome check.

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