"The cabbie drove me down from Route 1 to the center of town, through the hot green tunnel of July trees. Lawns were being watered, dogs were being called, bikes were being ridden, cookouts were being done, pools were being splashed drinks were being had, tennis was being played. Suburbia writ large. There was some kind of barbecue underway on the common around the meeting house. The smoke from the barbecue wagons hung over the folding tables in a light good-smelling haze. There were dogs there and children and a balloon man. I did not hear him whistle far and wee. If he had, it wouldn't have been for me." (Robert Parker, The Judas Goat, p. 157)
|My 1983 paperback edition.|
In fact, Parker could really do a lot with language! Spenser, the fictitious private investigator who narrates the novels about himself, has a very powerful and entertaining voice. The Judas Goat is only the fifth of Parkers thirty-nine Spenser novels, so his exaggerated short sentences, wisecracks, and self-praising remarks hadn't yet become formulaic.
As always, Spenser's love of good food offers lots of chances for the reader to admire his prose. Sometimes the descriptions read as if he was auditioning to write for Jane and Michael Stern -- who published the first Road Food a year before The Judas Goat appeared. I suspect both were reflecting a trend of some kind.
On the way to the suburban scene in the quote, near his girlfriend Susan Silverman's house, Spenser had gone to Karl's Sausage Kitchen and Donovan's Package Store. (Parker always seemed to use real food places -- Karl's still existed as recently as 2012.) Once in Susan's kitchen, Spenser tells us:
"I found some Utica Club cream ale in the refrigerator and opened a can while I unpacked my delicatessen in the kitchen. There was veal loaf and pepper loaf and beer wurst, and Karl's liverwurst, which you could slice or spread and which made my blood flow a little faster when I thought of it.
"I had bought two cartons of German potato salad and some pickles and a loaf of Westphalian rye and a jar of Dusseldorf mustard." (p. 158)You get the idea. Quite a bit later, after greeting Susan whom he hasn't seen in a long time (during which he'd been out hunting assassins and killing some of them) they get around to eating -- "I put two slices of veal loaf on some rye bread, added a small application of Dusseldorf mustard, put another slice of bread on top and bit. I chewed and swallowed." (p. 164)
That's Spenser. His descriptions of killing bad guys are just as wry and detached as his descriptions of food. Another thing The Judas Goat has going for it is that the great character Hawk plays a big role. If you don't know Hawk, you should read this book. You could (re)read it even if you do.
P.S. If you didn't notice the reference in the quoted paragraph to an e. e. cummings poem, look at this. Spenser is not just sensitive, handsome, talented, cold-blooded, food-appreciating, and a fabulous lover of Susan Silverman -- he's also very well-read in poetry and world lit.