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Tom Chaney: No. R774: Revenge and Apple Fritters

Of Writers and Their Books: R774: Revenge and Apple Fritters, a review of Robert B. Parker's In Cold Service which first appeared 5 August 2007.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column : Tom Chaney - R773: The Blue Hen's Chicks

By Tom Chaney

Revenge and Apple Fritters

More than thirty Spenser novels and Robert B. Parker still delights.

Cold Service [Putnam, 2005] is not the best of Parker, but it will certainly do until his next appears on the used book shelf.

For those not familiar with Spenser, he is the 20th Century equivalent of the white-hatted gunslinger of the old West with a metropolitan Boston twist. Punishment of evil doers is swift whether it be Black Bart the train robber or Boots Podolak corrupt mayor of the Boston suburb of Marshport in fee to the Ukrainian mob.

Spenser's friend Hawk, African-American hit man, took three slugs in the back while protecting a client. The client, his wife, and a child are all killed. An infant son survives.

Hawk vows revenge. He and Spenser unravel the skein of connections and eliminate most of the bad guys including the mayor.

It is not the violence that draws me quickly to each new Parker novel so much as character, language, and style. Oh! And recipes.

The language is a brutally honest irony. Susan Silverman, Harvard trained psychiatrist, joined Spenser's world back in 1975 in God Save the Child. Theirs has been an intense and honest relationship with each accepting the other as found. Susan once proposed their sharing living quarters. Spenser demurred, realizing the perils to identity produced by too much proximity.

Susan is in sharp contrast with Hawk's friend Cecile, a surgeon, who loves not the man Hawk is but the man she thinks he can become.

_ _ _ _"So many to kill," Cecile said softly without looking up. "So little time."

Hawk looked at me [Spencer].

"What that line about honor?" Hawk said. "From a poem?"

"Richard Lovelace?" I said. "'I could not love thee half as much, loved I not honor more?'"

"Oh, spare me," Cecile said.

"Cecile," he [Hawk] said. "You know, and I know, and they know, you got a nice offer in Cleveland, but that you going because you mad at me for not being who you want me to be."

"I'm not mad, damn it," Cecile said, "I love you and I can't stand that I can't have you."

"Not good dinner conversation," Hawk said. "But it's on the table. If you love me, you could have me. You love somebody else and insist I be him."

_ _ _ _And there you have it. All that's missing is Tex Ritter singing "High Noon" in the background.

Spenser and Susan frequently spend their nights together. Parker pulls the shades at just the right time. The reader is usually left outside with Pearl, scratching to be let in.

But in the morning it's breakfast time. After the first evening in Cold Service, Spenser serves up scrapple and eggs refusing to let Susan know too much about the contents of scrapple.

For a later breakfast the menu made my mouth water. When Susan joins him, discretely clad, in the kitchen Spenser is in the process of making apple fritters. He cut up the apples and sprinkled them with lemon juice to keep them from darkening while he whips up the batter. He does not reveal the whole recipe, but we are told that he uses half flour and half corn meal.

I aim to try this in the next few days. I shall fill out the recipe as follows. Sift together half cup all purpose flour, half cup corn meal, a teaspoon of salt, one and one-half teaspoons baking powder. Mix one-third cup of milk with one egg. Combine the wet and dry to form the batter.

If the apples are chopped, mix them in the batter and drop the mix by tablespoons into hot oil. If the apples be sliced, dip them in the batter and drop them in the hot oil. Fry about two to three minutes until nicely browned.

While revenge is a dish best served cold -- hence the title of the novel -- the same is not true of the fritters.

I wish that Parker would produce a cook book containing all of Spenser's recipes. And then I pause. I'd rather have another novel.

Box 73/111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney

This story was posted on 2012-08-05 08:58:58
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