Three Complete Spenser Novels: The Godwulf Manuscript, Mortal Stakes and Promised Land, by Robert B. Parker
Five out of five stars
This collection of three novels could be titled, “The Evolution of Spenser.” The “Godwulf Manuscript” is the first in the series of Spenser novels and it introduces the police characters of Quirk and Belson. Susan Silverman is only mentioned and Spenser is depicted as a randy man, very willing to hop in bed with women he encounters. The villain in this case is Joe Broz, the tough gangster that ages along with Spenser as the series progresses. There is also some rather harsh homophobic dialog, something still considered acceptable in 1972.
“Mortal Stakes” is the third novel in the Spenser series and in this story he is unveiled as the man of extreme principle, risking his life in order to save the career of an outstanding baseball player. Spenser’s love of baseball is an essential plot device and the reader learns about his growing up and attending Boston Braves baseball games. Which dates him very well.
“Promised Land” is the fourth novel in the Spenser series and is notable for the introduction of the enigmatic Hawk character. Spenser has now generally settled down to being a one woman man with Susan Silverman, so from this point she is an essential counselor to his actions. Their sexual romps are also interwoven into the narrative. One unusual feature of this story is the inclusion of radical, revolutionary feminists willing to kill people that stand in their way.
Since they are early stories in the lengthy Spenser series, the characters are not yet completely introduced or fleshed out. Yet, the brilliance of the dialog and the seeds of the (b)romances are solidly planted, to bear entertaining dividends in the future stories.