Series Spenser
Publisher G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date 1991
Media type hardcover
ISBN 0-399-13628-2
Preceded by Stardust
Followed by Double Deuce

Cover InformationEdit

"For my wife and sons--sine qua non" (see annotation below)

Taken from the jacket of the hardcover edition.

'After the stellar success of Stardust, Robert B. Parker’s sleuth Spenser returns in a bittersweet thriller mixing memory, desire--and danger.

The sequel to his acclaimed Early Autumn, Robert B. Parker’s Pastime tells a constantly surprising tale of past crimes and present perils.

Ten years ago, Paul Giacomin’s corrupt father and loose mother used the boy as a pawn in their violent divorce; only Spenser could call them off and straighten out the troubled teen--almost getting killed in the process.

Now Paul is twenty-five, and reconciled to his mother’s wanton ways. But when Patty Giacomin vanishes, Paul begs Spenser to help him rescue her from the clutches of her boyfriend, a shady character who, he’s sure, coerced her into running off. As Spenser--accompanied by Paul, Susan Silverman, and the redoubtable Hawk--follows Patty’s trail to its astonishing conclusion, he is led back, through Paul’s own rites of passage, along the lanes of his own memories. The boy Spenser was and the man Paul must become race toward a confrontation that may break their hearts--and threaten their lives....

Fast-paced and complex in emotion and suspense, Pastime is Parker and Spenser at their most revealing and resonant."

Recurring CharactersEdit

  • Paul Giacomin is pretty much the focus of this novel, as he enlists Spenser's help in finding his mother, who has disappeared for some reason.
  • Paul's mother, Patty Giacomin , makes a small appearance toward the end of the novel (yes, he finds her).
  • Paul's dad, Mel Giacomin , doesn't show up in this story, but he is mentioned indirectly.
  • Callahan, the house detective at the Ritz, whistles silently at Susan.
  • Hawk does some bodyguard work for Spenser, and gets him out of the woods of Western Mass when all hell breaks loose towards the end.
  • Susan pops up from time to time, mainly to introduce the new member of the family and to help pull some of Spenser's past out of him (kicking and screaming, no doubt).
  • Susan's ex-husband is mentioned briefly, but we don't meet him.
  • Linda Thomas is mentioned, "tho only in absentia" Iain Campbell reminds me.
  • Spenser's old adversary, Joe Broz, is back, and he's after Patty's boyfriend, Rich Beaumont, who ran away with a lot of Joe's money.
  • Where there's Joe, there's Vinnie Morris. Well, at least for now. Vinnie makes some important decisions and has a bit of a crisis in this story. More on him later.
  • The other focus of this story is Gerry Broz, Joe's only son. Gerry's supposed to inherit the business when Joe is gone. In this story we find out whether he's man enough for the job.
  • Henry Cimoli is mentioned briefly when Spenser works out at the Harbor Health Club, but we never actually see him (don't worry, he's lurking about somewhere).
  • At last, we have a new member of the "family." Enter Pearl, a chocolate brown German Shorthair pointer (mistaken at times for a Doberman), originally named Vigilant Virgin (and you can see why Spenser & Susan renamed her). She used to belong to Susan's ex, but he had to move to London, and rather than leave Pearl in quarantine, he gave her to Susan. Welcome to the family, Pearl.

Unanswered QuestionsEdit

  • "It's one of the two or three times you've ever blushed." I know I'm going to regret asking this, but what exactly did Spenser suggest that would make her blush? The last time--that we know of--that Susan blushed was when Spenser mentioned making love with her sweater still on. But since they've already done that, and Susan stated that it would be something too new (she was too embarrassed to try it before), that can't be it. Must be pretty kinky, whatever it is.

Literary References, or "The Annotated Gumshoe"Edit

Significance of the dedication: The Latin term "Sine qua non" translates literally as "without which not." Under the laws of these United States it is held to mean (according to Rupp's Insurance & Risk Management Glossary) "A necessary element in the chain of causation," or as a lawyer would interpret it "you dropped a rock, here's a bill for the landslide." That's the negative connotation.

The Mirriam-Webster's online Collegiate Dictionary notes the original Latin and finds the first usage in English circa 1602. It has evolved to mean "something absolutely indispensable or essential." Parker is obviously crediting his wife and family for all that is good in his life. The song "You are the wind beneath my wings" comes to mind. See Lyrics

Significance of the title: While researching All Our Yesterdays I pulled up the poem Nuns Fret Not by William Wordsworth. Check it out in Poetry and see if you agree that this book carries the same idea.

Chapter 2:

  • "Hi Ozzie, where's Harriet." - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet started on radio in 1944 and ran on television from 1952 until 1966. It starred the real family of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson and their two boys David and Ricky (real name Eric) and was as much about watching the boys grow up as it was a little slice of supposed small town America. Ozzie seemed to have no source of income and was always puttering around the house. Thanks to Iain Campbell for pointing this out.

Chapter 3:

  • "Jesus, this must be the pheasant that ate Chicago." - George Waller notes that this is a take-off on the song "The Eggplant that ate Chicago." Written by Norman Greenbaum while he was with "Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band" it was released in 1967 and went reasonably high on the charts. Norman later went solo and included it on the album "Spirit in the Sky" in 1969, named for the song he is best remembered for. See Lyrics
  • "That brown liquor, which not women, not boys and children, but only hunters drank." - William Faulkner. It's from a short story called, appropriately enough, The Bear.

Chapter 4:

  • "She is what she is." - Iain Campbell pointed this one out in relation to our ongoing discussion of Spenser occasionally saying "I am what I am." He brought up Yahweh telling Moses "I am who I am." I countered with Popeye intoning "I yam what I yam."

Chapter 5:

  • French phrases:
    • Chez Vous - "The house of you." Cute when you consider that it's a realtor's office. I'd translate it as "Your house."
    • Entre Nous - "Between us." Cute name for a dating bar.
    • Cherchez la femme - "[Let us] look for the woman." Another cute name for a dating bar. See Oft Quoted

Chapter 6:

  • "ancestral voices prophesying war." - This one snuck by me but it couldn't evade Brenda Powell, who wrote to say that it's a line from Kubla Kahn by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Good catch, Brenda. I put a copy in Poetry.
  • "The stuff that dreams are made of" - See Oft Quoted
  • "And most of them are not, ah, mensches." - A Yiddish term. Iain Campbell notes that it's "a man who also lives up to a code of decency, tho perhaps not as demanding as that of Spenser."

Chapter 7:

  • "The rude bridge that arched the flood." - Iain Campbell points out that it's the first line of Concord Hymn by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which was sung at the completion of the Battle Monument on April 19,1836. See Lyrics
  • "A hard man is good to find" - Probably a play on "A good man is hard to find." See Oft Quoted and Lyrics

Chapter 8:

  • "Not of woman born" - a reference to Shakespeare’s MacBeth [1606] (actually, Spenser refers to himself and MacBeth as "not of woman born," when the character in the play who was not of woman born was actually MacDuff: "MacDuff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripp’d" - Act V, scene 7. Still, MacBeth is linked, being the target of the prophecy: "none of woman born shall harm MacBeth" - Act IV, scene 1.
  • "And all you need to know." - I missed this one entirely, but the sharp eyes of Nicholas Allen caught it. He writes: "While initially this sounds like glib old Spenser in his Shakespearian voice it is actually a direct quote from John Keats in Ode on a Grecian Urn. '"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,"--that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'" Good catch, Nick.
  • "The small rain down can rain" - See Oft Quoted

Chapter 9:

  • "You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar" - Most likely a proverb, possibly even a moral to an Aesop's Fable, but I can't find it. Neither could I, but Dennis Tallett did: "It's from 'Gnomologia,' three volumes of witty sayings from around the world collected by Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) an English physician: 'More Flies are taken with a Drop of Honey than a Tun of Vinegar'"

Chapter 11:

  • "Brevity is the soul of wit." - Shakespeare, Hamlet [1600-1601], Act II, scene 2, line 90.
  • "Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang." - See Oft Quoted and Poetry (Sonnet 73)

Chapter 12:

  • "thy beauty is to me like those Nicean barks of yore" - Edgar Allen Poe, To Helen [1831], stanza 1.
  • "With her I was Arthur Murray." - Founder of one of the best known franchised dancing studios. Read a full bio here:
  • "Maybe a little white collar like Dorothy Collins on The Hit Parade." - George Waller pointed out this reference

    Dorothy Collins.

    to a gorgeous lady last mentioned in God Save the Child: "Born Marjorie Chandler in Windsor, Ontario on November 18, 1926, Dorothy Collins began her professional singing career at age 14. Although she is known primarily as the lead singer on the long-running 1950s NBC television show "Your Hit Parade," Collins was also featured in "Candid Camera," where she displayed a lively flair for comedy. She died in 1994." Based on a 1935-1950 radio show, it lasted from 1950 to 1959, but its old-time format just couldn't survive the growing popularity of Rock and Roll. See
  • "What if I had not panted after the sweet sorrow of renunciation?" - A reference to Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Act 2, scene 2. "Parting is such sweet sorrow."

Chapter 15:

  • " a jar in Tennessee." - See The Widening Gyre and Poetry.
  • "The great black hope" - A play on "The Great White Hope." It's the title of a 1968 Broadway play by Howard Sackler and a 1970 movie, both starring James Earl Jones as Jack Jefferson, a Black contender for the heavyweight boxing crown, who had to deal with racism and hatred in mid-century white America. I assume the character's name was chosen to honor Jack Johnson, the first Black heavyweight champion, who reigned from 26 December, 1909 until 1915.
  • "Peas in a pod" - Couldn't find a reference, but this most likely refers to the fact that Spenser and Hawk are so much alike that they could be considered two of a kind.

Chapter 16:

  • "We have fallen among barbarians." - I never made the connection but Iain Campbell did: "Do you think it might be a Parkeresque adaptation of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:30, where the man 'fell among thieves'? "That does sound reasonable. My Revised Standard Edition says "fell among robbers" so it depends on the translation.

Chapter 17:

  • "She could run but she couldn't hide." - Thanks to Hisao Tomihari for noticing this one. See Oft Quoted

Chapter 21:

  • "Takes a tough man to make a tender chicken." - Frank Purdue, in his chicken ads (Yes, this was actually in here).

Chapter 22:

  • "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" - See Oft Quoted.

Chapter 23:

  • "...if you didn't have this Yahoo with you." - Aside from being a rather large, very organized, reference web site, a Yahoo is a species of man in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels [1726]. Specifically, in book IV, [Voyage to the Houyhnhnms], the superior race in the land was the Houynhnm, an intelligent breed of horse. The humans were savage and wild, and were called Yahoos. When Gulliver arrived in this land, he was perceived as a Yahoo because of his appearance but managed to convince the Houyhnhnms that he was intelligent. Since this book was published, a Yahoo has been a slang for a savage, barbarian, madman (just to name a few). So basically it was an insult directed towards Spenser. 'Nuff said. (And no, it wasn't a tip of the hat to the Internet Search Engine. This is 1990 we're talking about, after all. The internet was still the playground of universities and the military back then.)

Chapter 26:

  • "Nature never failed the heart that loved her" - William Wordsworth, Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey [1798], lines 122-3: "Knowing that Nature never did betray / The heart that loved her."

Chapter 27:

  • "Only yesterday...when the world was young." - From the 1950 Johnny Mercer song (Ah, the Apple Trees) When the World Was Young. See Lyrics
  • "Darkness visible." - Susan Rushton pointed me to Paradise Lost by John Milton. Satan is looking around at his new home: "At once, as far as Angels ken, he views / The dismal situation waste and wild. A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,/ As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames/ No light; but rather darkness visible/ Served only to discover sights of woe,/ Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace/ And rest can never dwell, hope never comes/ That comes to all, but torture without end"

Chapter 29:

  • "Fit as a fiddle and ready for love...I could jump over the moon up above." - Fit as a Fiddle is the first musical number is the 1952 movie Singin' in the Rain. Written by Nacio Herb Brown, performed by Gene Kelley and Donald O'Connor in a flashback to the early days of their careers. See Lyrics
  • "He carried you in like you were a child." - Okay, this one's just for fun. Iain Campbell notes "I guess this is the action flip-side of "He ain't heavy he's my brother." See Oft Quoted
  • "Pretty to think so." - See Oft Quoted.

Chapter 31:

  • "Happy as a fish with a new bicycle." - Hisao Tomihari noticed another paraphrasing of the famous feminist saying. See Oft Quoted

Chapter 33:

  • "Not exactly June Cleaver." - George Waller pointed out this reference. Let me paste in the following from Playmates ch. 10: June and Ward Cleaver, played by Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont, were the parents of Theodore and Wallace (AKA Beaver and Wally), played by Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow in the TV show Leave it to Beaver, which ran from 1957 to 1963. If you are looking for an upbeat take on American family values in the 1950's it's hard to find a better example.
  • "If it's not broke, don't fix it" - Can't find a reference for this, but it's basic common sense, really... (Update: See this interesting analysis of the phrase, which -  surprisingly - likely originated in the late 1970s).
  • "The truth will set you free" - John 8:32 (paraphrased. The actual text is: "The truth shall make you free." Begging to differ, but my New International Version agrees with Paul on the translation.
  • "Malt does more than Milton can, to justify God’s ways to man." - See Oft Quoted

Chapter 36:

  • "Caffeine, like youth, is wasted on the young." - a tip of the hat to George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950): "Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children." Thanks go to Chris McLaren for finding this one in Wit & Bile. (Yes, the above quote is correct but Dennis Tallett takes it to the next level: ", like youth, is wasted on the young. 1st verse, Second Time Around (1960) by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen." So Sammy is referring to George, and Dr. Parker (who doubtless knows of Mr. Shaw) is referring to the work of Mr. Cahn. See Lyrics

Meanwhile, in the Spenser UniverseEdit

Boy, do we have a ton of these to go through! This story is probably the single-most informative story as far as Spenser's past goes. Let's begin, shall we?

  • Spenser had a German Shorthair like Pearl when he was a kid. Same breed, same color, but slightly bigger. The dog then was called Pearl, so that's where Pearl II got her name. We'll just call her Pearl from now on (Vigilant Virgin? Yagggh!).
  • Susan wasn't overly fond of Paul when he first popped up in Early Autumn, because he was taking up so much of Spenser's time, but she seems to have gotten over that now.
  • Paul and Paige are engaged to be married, but haven't set a date yet. And at the end of the story, the marriage is off (and that's the last we've heard from Paul since). Paul apparently is unsure if marriage is such a good thing, and his two biggest examples are:

His own parents, and that marriage crashed and burned big time.

  • Spenser and Susan, who are living just fine in separate houses, without getting married, and it's worked for sixteen years (in fact, in Double Deuce, we find that anything closer than that has potentially disastrous results, but we'll save that for later).
  • Spenser was seventeen when he had his first shot of scotch, making it one of his favorite celebratory drinks. He was hunting for pheasant in Maine with his father and Pearl I, when he ran into a black bear, drunk off of the fermented apples he had been eating. Spenser wanted to run, but stood his ground, and his father was able to hold the bear off until it lost interest and stumbled away. He and his father went to a nearby bar and celebrated Spenser's bravery with a shot of scotch. Spenser had acted like a man in his father's view, so he treated Spenser like a man.

Speaking of alcohol, here's this story's "Broo List":

    • Chapter 8: Sam Adams, at the Ritz bar (a beautiful combination).
    • Chapter 12: Catamount Golden Lager, at Susan's house.
    • Chapter 27: Schaefer, in a flashback at Yankee Stadium when Spenser was between 18 and 21 (inferred by the fact that he was underage in Boston but legal in New York).
  • Paul has appeared on television, in a PBS special about dance, while he was in New York.
  • Spenser remembers his and Susan's first date, even down to what underwear Susan was wearing. They have now been together for about sixteen years.
  • Spenser's father was a carpenter, in business with his wife's two brothers, in Laramie, Wyoming. When Spenser was born (during the depression), his father was twenty, and his two uncles were seventeen and eighteen. One of the uncles was named Bob. We already know that Spenser's mother died giving birth to him, and that Spenser was delivered by cesarean section. Spenser's father never remarried, and he lived with Spenser's uncles until they got married, in Spenser's teens. Four men unified by a connection to one woman. Spenser's father and two uncles all fought for extra money, at heavyweight (one of the uncles fought for a while at light heavy until he filled out). And they loved Spenser without reservation, even to the point of going after people who gave Spenser a hard time. And they would come to family night at Spenser's school, all three of them.
  • Spenser and his family moved east to Boston when he was ten or twelve.
  • Spenser's father read a lot. Spenser's uncles only read to Spenser. All three of them would read Spenser something, anything, before bed time. We can see that this is where Spenser got his eloquence (and why I have the Annotated Gumshoe, for that matter).
  • Spenser was in love once before, when he was sixteen. Her name was Dale Carter, and she sat in front of him in French class. They never dated in the traditional sense, but it was obvious that they were very fond of each other. Then when someone else asked Dale to a dance, and Dale told him, he let her go. In retrospect, Spenser realizes that she really wanted him to ask her instead, but Spenser already had a sense of honor, so he let her go. Also, believe it or not, he was too shy to ask. So Dale left his life, and eventually (20 or so years later) he found Susan. Both Spenser and Susan believe that this was meant to be, which was why she got divorced and Spenser didn't settle down with anyone beforehand.
  • Spenser has decided not to quit coffee, but at the same time he's still trying here and there. At the end of the book he orders decaf. It's a step in that direction, at any rate.
  • Hawk and Spenser first met when they fought each other in a preliminary bout at the Boston Arena (now Matthews' Arena, on the Northeastern University campus). They both claim to have won the fight.
  • On the way out, Hawk was accosted by a bunch of racists, and Spenser came to his aid. Between the two of them, they managed to mop up the street with the offending persons. Later, their professional lives intersected now and then, on the opposite sides of the law. They are each other's best friend, but never speak of it. Call it an unspoken law. They are more alike then they'd care to admit, and if something happened to one of them, the other one would immediately come to their rescue, or even worse, extract revenge for their death. Peas in a pod.
  • Patty Giacomin was twenty when she had Paul. It's clear she wasn't ready to have the baby; she was just a junior in college, and was always trying to get away from Paul when he was growing up. This, of course, made him cling even tighter, and by the time his parents got divorced, he was pretty much a basket-case. Enter Spenser, and after ten years of therapy, Paul feels he's pretty much sweated most of the poison out of his system. This is his last attempt to understand his parents, and see them in a different light than what he grew up with (good luck, Paul).
  • Joe Broz is getting old. He's still trying to convince everyone (including himself) that he still has what it takes, but he's slowly slipping. And he wants to turn it over to Gerry before it's too late. Trouble is, Gerry most definitely doesn't have what it takes, and if he takes over, the organization will be in pieces within six months. Joe refuses to accept this at first, because there's no one else, but at the end of the story, he has to accept that Gerry will not make a good successor (especially after Spenser blows a hole in his kneecap). What has happened to Joe since then, no one knows, since we haven't heard about him or Gerry since (we do see Vinnie Morris in Walking Shadow, however). Spenser meets Joe again in Chance, and the old man mentions Jerry, that he "set him up in a nice tavern out in Pittsfield."
  • Speaking of Vinnie, he has left Joe's organization and struck out on his own. He's been with Joe since he was a teenager, and is considered family, but when Spenser and Gerry lock horns, Joe leaves Vinnie out of it, saying that he isn't family for this situation. That was a mistake, because it causes Vinnie to realize that he doesn't have any family; like Spenser, he's a loner. It also causes him to realize that he and Spenser have more in common than he first realized, and he ends up on Spenser's side (well, not in this case; he just washes his hand of anything Broz-like, but he does come to Spenser's aid in the future).
  • Spenser has enjoyed cooking since he was a kid. Since it was an all-male household, they all participated in the chores, even Spenser's uncles, who hated gardening but loved fresh produce and hated to take anything without helping (Spenser's dad, by the way, loved gardening). Spenser himself hated it. But getting back to the subject, Spenser cooked small things for a while, leftovers, hamburgers, etc. One day, however, he wanted a pie, and there wasn't any, so he made one. It was a hack job, to be sure, with a stuck-together crust (instead of rolling it out), but it was good, and from then on Spenser shared in the cooking.
  • Spenser wants to be a bouncer in a rest home when he retires (he'd do a good job, too).
  • Rich Beaumont is Spenser's height, which confirms Spenser at 6'1".
  • Pearl is very gun-shy. Not very helpful when you're in this line of work.
  • Chalk up another bullet hole for Spenser, this time in his left thigh (well, at least it wasn't in the ass this time).
  • Hawk believes himself incapable of falling in love. We'll get into that a little more in Double Deuce.
  • Vinnie's sense of honor is a lot like Hawk's. He might kill you, but he won't lie to you.
  • Finding Paul's mother made things a lot more complicated. Realizing that she genuinely loved Rich and would run away with him without a second thought for Paul seems to have rocked him. One wonders if his relationship with Paige isn't over. Will he be suspicious of women for the rest of his life? Will he be incapable of love, like Hawk? Only Paul knows.
  • Spenser seems to like mainly things that he can do by himself. He is extremely self-sufficient, to the point of being the most independent person around. The only one he has really opened up to is Susan, and she is honored and delighted that she was the one he opened up to. Spenser has made it clear that Susan is the woman in his life; after growing up in a household of men, she's he one he wants to grow old with (although he's getting there already).

(whew! Definitely a record set here!)

Favorite LinesEdit

Chapter 1: Yes, marriage will do that to you

"'Shouldn't she be lying on the couch?' I said.
'She's not in analysis,' Susan said.
'She belonged to your ex-husband.'
'Yes,' Susan said. 'Good point.'
'What's her name?' I said.
Susan wrinkled her nose. 'Vigilant Virgin.'
'And she's not in analysis?'"

Chapter 1: And giggle into the wee hours of the night?

"'Do we have joint custody?' I said. 'I get her on weekends?'
'I think she can stay here,' Susan said. 'I have a yard. But certainly she could come to your place for sleep-overs."
'Bring her jammies and her records? We could make brownies?'"

Chapter 2: For Spenser that was a flashy show of emotion

"Paul came over and shook my hand and patted me on the shoulder. Susan came out of the house and told him how glad she was to see him and gave him a hug and kissed him. Her range of demonstrable emotion is maybe a little wider than mine."

Chapter 3: Don't drink and strut...

"I had wanted to complete the look by wearing the cowboy boots that had been handmade for me in L.A. by Willie the Cobbler. But Susan reminded me that I tended to fall off them if I had more than one drink, so I settled for black cordovan loafers."

Chapter 4: Spenser's--er, Dick Tracy's crime stoppers, #35

"'Always try the door before jimmying it.'
'Great working with a pro,' Paul said."

Chapter 6: It might get some interesting looks at parties

"I took a card out of my shirt pocket and gave it to her. It had my name on it, and my address and phone number and the word Investigator. Nothing else. Susan had said that a Tommy gun, with a fifty-round drum, spewing flame from the muzzle, was undignified."

Chapter 11: And those are his good qualities

"'We won't argue. I know Joe a long time. But we both know Gerry and we both know he's a fucking ignoramus.'
'But he's mean and you can't trust him,' I said.
'Exactly,' Vinnie said."

Chapter 11: Let's not get all warm and fuzzy here

"'I don't want trouble with you, Spenser.'
'Who would,' I said.
'You're probably half as good as you think you are,' Vinnie said. 'But that's pretty good. And you got resources.'
'Hawk,' I said.
'You and he can be a large pain in the fungones.'
'Nice of you to say so, Vinnie. Hawk will be flattered.'"

Chapter 12: subtlety, thy name is Susan

"'She seemed to walk very lightly. She seemed to be very, very interested in what you said, and she would listen with her lips just a little apart and breathe softly through her mouth while she listened.'
Susan wet her lower lip and opened her mouth and leaned forward and panted at me.
'A little more subtly than that,' I said."

Chapter 15: The beginning of a beautiful friendship

"'After, ah, one of us won the fight,' Hawk said, 'I got cleaned up and dressed and I'm coming out of the Arena and I run into a group of young white guys. They drunk. Lot of people go to the fights at the Arena are drunk. And one of them spoke loudly, and unkindly of...I believe the phrase was jigaboos. At which point I took some offense.'
'How many were there?' Susan said.
'Enough so they brave,' Hawk said. 'Six, maybe, eight. Anyway, ah expressed my resentment to the guy who had called me a jigaboo, and it caused him to spit out some of his front teeth. And so his friends jump in. Normally me against eight drunks is about even. But I'm a little winded from fighting your friend, and winning--'
'Losing,' I said.
'And I'm beginning to give a little ground when Spenser comes out and sees the fight and jumps in on my side and their side calls him a nigger lover and Spenser throw him through a window.'
'Open?' Susan said.
Susan winced.
'Who won?' Susan asked. I knew she knew the answer, but she was kind enough to feed it to us.
'We did,' Hawk and I said simultaneously."

Chapter 19: An equal opportunity hotel

"The Motel Thirty in Lee had no objection to Pearl. They also would have no objection to the Creature From the Black Lagoon--or Madonna."

Chapter 23: The Yahoo has left the building!

"Finally Patty looked at Rich, and he said, 'Kid, you got no business coming in here and talking like that. And you wouldn't get away with it if you didn't have this Yahoo with you.'
'That may be,' Paul said, 'but here he is.'
The Yahoo smiled charmingly and said nothing. He was musing over the prospect of stuffing Rich up the chimney flue if the opportunity appeared."

Chapter 28: And how are we feeling today?

"She [the nurse] showed me the remote.
'We push this to sit up,' she said. 'And this turns on our television. And if we need a nurse we push this one.'
I said, 'Are you going to get into bed with me? Or is this we stuff just a tease?'
She stared blankly at me for a moment. Then she grinned.
'Let's wait until your leg is better,' she said.
'That's what they all say.'
'Oh, I doubt that,' she said. 'My name is Felicia. You want me'--she grinned--'for medical reasons, press the button.'"

Chapter 28: Loyalty deserves reward

"'Live in Boston?' he said.
'Where you staying out here?'
'Just came out for the day,' I said.
'Take the dog in the woods. She loves the woods.'
'Two-hour drive to walk the dog?'
'She's a good dog,' I said."

Chapter 30: African Princesses, and the joy of hospital food

"'Daisy is the redhead, taught black studies.' Hawk's face was without expression. Susan raised her eyebrows.
'Yeah,' Hawk said. 'This a while ago. Everybody teaching black studies. Red-haired broad with freckles, grew up in Great Neck, Long Island. Only black people she ever saw were from the Long Island Expressway driving through Jamaica.'
'I assume her emphasis tended toward the more theoretical aspect of the black experience,' Susan said.
I ate some turkey. It was pretty tender, but the gravy was hard to chew.
'She'd read Invisible Man six times,' Hawk said. 'Everything Angela Davis ever wrote. Told me she ashamed of being white. Told me she thought maybe she black in another life.'
I ate some mashed potatoes. They were chewy, too.
'An African princess, perhaps?' I said. It came out muffled because I was still gnawing on the mashed potatoes.
'Amazing you should guess that,' Hawk said.
'Funny, isn't it,' I said--and paused and tried to swallow the potato, and succeeded on the second try--'how people almost never seem to have been four-dollar whores in a Cape Town crib in another life.'"


  • Chapter 12: Couscous with chicken and vegetables made by Susan at her place.
  • Chapter 13: Blueberry pancakes in the Quincy Market.
  • Chapter 15: Pork Tenderloin with sour cherry sauce, and polenta, at Icarus.
  • Chapter 18: Turkey on whole wheat with mustard and chips and a sour pickle at a restaurant in Lennox. The "fresh" turkey was fresh from a turkey roll.
  • Chapter 26: Dining in the woods: jerusalem artichokes, choke cherries, acorns.
  • Chapter 29: Chicken broth and raspberry jello as his first hospital meal.
  • Chapter 30: A real hospital meal: turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, succotash, pink applesauce, and vanilla pudding.
  • Chapter 34: Coffee and donuts in the parking lot of Dunkin Donuts.
  • Chapter 36: Chili and corn bread at his place, with some corn relish he and Susan had made. Cherry pie at an all-night place near the Colonial Theater.


  • Chapter 2: Beer with Paul at Susan's house.
  • Chapter 3: Scotch and soda at the Ritz bar.
  • Chapter 8: Sam Adams at the Ritz bar.
  • Chapter 12: Catamount Golden Lager at Susan's.
  • Chapter 15: Krug champagne at Icarus.
  • Chapter 20: Scotch and soda in Joe Broz's office.
  • Chapter 33: Beer with Paul in Spenser's kitchen.
  • Chapter 36: Beer with supper at home.


  • This is more of a nit-pick than anything else, but it does kind of move the plot along, so here goes. In chapter 14, when Spenser and Paul are going through Patty's piled-up mail, he uses the individual receipts page on her American Express bill to track her down. This in itself is ok, but Paul uses the receipt in question to verify her signature. Now I've only been an AMEX card-holder for a year or so myself (and I've since then become an ex-member), and maybe things have changed since 1991, but my receipts in the bill are electronic copies only, generated by the computers at AMEX, and not copies of the original receipts. As such, they have no signature on them. This seems to be a recent change, however, since Denis Hamelin writes: "I have been a member since 1986. The cardboard (last) copy of the imprinted receipt was enclosed with the statement each month until 1989 or 90. Now you can see the signature occasionally when the merchant uses an imprinter instead of a magnetic reader (it is a photocopy from the microfilm of the receipt)."
  • The title can have more than one meaning. Simone Hochreiter, a German fan, referred to this novel as Pasttime. As we discussed our subsequent email exchange, in English "Pastime" is "anything that serves as an agreeable recreation (PASS + TIME)" or an enjoyable way to allow time to pass, and Baseball is very often called "the great American pastime." But if you split it another way it becomes "past time;" something which occurred before now. We are dealing with Paul and everything that shaped the man he has become and will be in the future.
  • Iain Campbell points out an inconsistency in Chapter 23: "When the Broz gunnies are piling out of their cars at the front of Richie Beaumont's secluded mansion, Spenser tells Paul Giacomin to run with mother Patti and Richie, and to 'call Hawk' when he gets free. This is interesting, because it indicates that Hawk now has a phone number. Usually Spenser contacts him by leaving a message at the Harbour health Club with Henry Cimoli, even in Surrogate, where he wants him in a hurry. Spenser doesn't say 'Get in contact with Hawk' he says 'call...'" I decided not to award a full blown Oops to this, because Spenser was trying to get three people away as fast as possible so it could have been verbal shorthand, but it's certainly worth mentioning. Thanks Iain..
  • Another inconsistency was pointed out by Constance Erickson-Loukes. In chapter 4 Paul stands by as Spenser breaks into Patty's house. In chapter 22 they discuss going back to get a picture of Patty.
"'Okay, let's go out there and break in again and get it.' 'No need to break and enter,' Paul said. 'While we were there last time I got a key. She always was losing hers, so she kept a spare one under the porch overhang. I took it when we left.'" Okay, maybe he forgot about it until they were on their way out, or he wanted to watch a professional at work, but that one has always bugged me too.
  • Oops: I might let the above go by but not this one. In ch. 27 Spenser and Gerry walk out of the woods and find themselves on the side of the Massachusetts Turnpike. I drive the Pike every day and one thing you notice is that along its entire length there is a five foot chain link fence on either side to restrict such access. From the description of Spenser's physical and mental condition it is doubtful that he could have climbed it unnoticed, gun in hand.
  • Oops2: There was a typo in the early editions of this book. In chapter 27 the distance to the right-field screen at Ebbets Field was given as 2976 feet instead of 297. I haven't seen it myself but Parker mentioned it in an interview and a fan named Usagi wrote that he has a copy. I'll be looking around to add this to my collection.
  • Addendum: Usagi Yojimbo is a saint. Not only did he find another copy with the typo, he packaged it up and mailed it to me! Excuse me while I do a little "happy dance" around the monitor.
  • Dr. Parker came to my town while he was promoting Death in Paradise and signed my copy of the above. Can life get any better than this?
  • If you're looking for it yourself try the first edition by G.P. Putnam's Sons. I don't know how soon they corrected the mistake.
  • Show me the money: This one's personal, not business.

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