by Robert B. Parker

A Spenser Novel

Boston P.I. Spenser returns -- heading west to the rich man's haven of Potshot, Arizona, a former mining town reborn as a paradise for Los Angeles millionaires looking for a place to escape the pressures of their high-flying lifestyles. Potshot overcame its rough reputation as a rendezvous for old-time mountain men who lived off the land, thanks to a healthy infusion of new blood and even newer money. But when this western idyll is threatened by a local gang-a twenty-first-century posse of desert rats, misfits, drunks, and scavengers -- the local police seem powerless. Led by a charismatic individual known only as The Preacher, this motley band of thieves selectively exploits the town, nurturing it as a source of wealth while systematically robbing the residents blind. Enter Spenser, called in to put the group out of business and establish a police force who can protect the town. Calling on his own cadre of cohorts, including Vinnie Morris, Bobby Horse, Chollo Bernard J. Fortunato, as well as the redoubtable Hawk, Spenser must find a way to beat the gang at their own dangerous game.


"Classic...Parker's superiority to the competition lies not in his plots, his characters, his highly polished formula, not even in his dialogue. It is demonstrated by all the things he puts into his books that don't need to be there."
Boston Globe

"Plenty of twists and turns, betrayals, cowardice and bloodshed before Spenser and his merry band put things right. Prolific mystery writer Parker still knows how to hit them out of the ballpark."

"Potshot...got that out-on-the-bounding-main zest and assurance that makes him a marvel among private-eye writers. One way Parker keeps the series fresh is getting Spenser out of Boston, and this time he's in the town of Potshot in the Sawtooth Mountains of the desert Southwest, tangling with a gang that terrorizes the residents...Potshot is as brisk, clever and funny as much of Parker's other work...hop on for another fast ride."
Washington Post Book World

"Parker is as good as they get."
Newark Star Ledger

"'The Magnificent Seven' rides again...Excellent."
Richmond Times Dispatch

"Spenser is as funny as ever."
Virginia Pilot

"If it's spring, it must be time for a new Spenser novel...Potshot is the 28th Spenser novel in 28 years. It's classic Parker: The formula stays fresh; the humor and chivalry are as refreshing as they were in the early books...Like the debonair Spenser, Parker and his books are aging gracefully."
USA Today

"Over the course of 28 Spenser novels, Parker has unleashed some formidable tough guys. There's Spenser himself, of course, detectivedom's most charmingly literate lout, and pal Hawk, who makes Shaft look like a wuss. In a move sure to tickle loyal Spenserians, Potshot adds five memorable supporting characters from earlier books to the mix...Gripping final showdown...Spenser and his entertaining bunch of second banana's still have plenty of appeal."

"Even after 27 books, Parker still finds clever ways to invigorate his Spenser series...As Spenser rounds up a posse and prepares for a showdown, Potshot emerges as a cross between High Noon and Chinatown...Parker's terse prose nicely suits this transplanted Western, which bodes well for his next novel, the Wyatt Earp oater Gunman's Rhaspody."
Entertainment Weekly

"[Parker is] a real, live writer whose words carry love and blood and passion and humor...a darn fine read...What makes it all original is the tone, the blend of wit and cynicism draped over romantic notions that has always defined Spenser."
Gannett News Service

"Robert B. Parker is one of the most successful mystery writers of our time, a stylist worthy of comparison with Raymond Chandler."
San Diego Union-Tribune

"Parker is in top form with Potshot: crisp dialog, pretty girls, a bit of John Wayne-style moralizing and plenty of action."

"Sometimes you have to wonder how Robert B. Parker keeps his mojo working. It can't be easy, year after year, sending his aging knight of a private eye, Spenser, into a cynical world that distrusts heroes and barely pays lip service to the romantic code of honor he lives by. There is a trick to keeping the faith with an old hero without letting him slip into redundancy, or worse, self-parody, and in Potshot, his 28th novel in the series, Parker shows us exactly how he does it...Parker...seems to be reveling in his own literary legend, by herding so many memorable characters from past novels to remind us of some of the finest chapters in his career. Well, if he expects applause, he's got it coming. In an age of shifty heroes with shaky values, he has created a hero who can still stand up for himself—and us."
The New York Times Book Review

"The Spenser series remains fresh after 28 novels in about 30 years. How does Parker do it? Through recurring characters as alive as any in fiction, and through exceptionally clean, graceful prose that links the novels as surely as do the characters...Genuinely scary villains, sassy dialogue, a deliciously convoluted mystery with roots in the classic western and Parker's pristine way with words result in another memorable case."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Parker still talks the talk."
USA Today

Buy the book

paperback | Thorndike Press | 2001 | ISBN: 9780786232321


Chapter One

She was wearing a straw hat, pulled down over her forehead, a short flowered dress, no stockings and white high heels. A lot of blond hair showed under the hat. Her face was nearly angelic and looked about 15, though the fact that she wore a wedding ring made me skeptical. She marched into my office like someone volunteering for active duty, and sat in one of my client chairs with her feet flat on the floor and her knees together. Nice knees.

"You're Mr. Spenser."

"I am."

"Lieutenant Samuelson of the Los Angeles Police Department said I should talk to you."

"He's right," I said.

"You know about this already?"

"No," I said. "I just think everybody should talk to me."

"Oh, yes . . . My name is Mary Lou Buckman."

"How do you do Mrs. Buckman."

"Fine, thank you."

She was quiet for a moment, as if she wasn't quite sure what she should do next. I didn't know either, so I sat and waited. Her bare legs were tan. Not tan as if she'd slathered them with oil and baked in the sun-tan as if she'd spent time outdoors in shorts. Her eyes were as big as Susan's, and bright blue.

Finally she said, "I would like to hire you."


"Don't you want to know more than that?"

"I wanted to start on a positive note," I said.

"I don't know if you're serious or if you're laughing at me," she said.

"I'm not always sure myself," I said. "What would you like me to do?"

She took a deep breath.

"I live in a small town in the foothills of the Saw Tooth Mountains, called Potshot. Once it was a rendezvous for mountain men, now it's a western retreat for a lot of people, mostly fromL.A., with money, who've moved there with the idea of getting their lives back into a more fundamental rhythm."

"Back out of all this now too much for us," I said.

"That's a poem or something," she said.

"Frost," I said.

She nodded.

"My husband and I came from Los Angeles. He was a football coach, Fairfax High. We got sick of the life and moved out here, there actually. We run, ran, a little tourist service, take people on horseback into the mountains and back-nothing fancy, day trips, maybe a picnic lunch."

"'We ran a service'?" I said.

"I still run it. My husband is dead."

She said it as calmly as if I'd asked his name. No effect.

I nodded.

"There was always an element to the town," she said. "I suppose you could call it a criminal element-they tended to congregate in the hills above town, a place called the Dell. There's an old mine there that somebody started once, and they never found anything and abandoned it, along with the mine buildings. They are, I suppose, sort of contemporary mountain men, people who made a living from the mountains. You know, fur trapping, hunting, scavenging. I think there are people still looking for gold, or silver, or whatever they think is in there-I don't know anything about mining. Some people have been laid off from the lumber companies, or the strip mines, there's a few left over hippies, and a general assortment of panhandlers and drunks and potheads."

"Which probably interferes with the natural rhythm of it all," I said.

"They were no more bothersome than any fringe people in any place," she said, "until about three years ago."

"What happened three years ago?"

"They got organized," she said. "They became a gang."

"Who organized them?"

"I don't know his real name. He calls himself The Preacher."

"Is he a preacher?"

"I don't know. I think so. I don't think he's being ironic."

"And there's a problem," I said.

"The gang lives off the town. They require the businessmen to pay protection. They use the stores and the restaurants and bars and don't pay. They acquire businesses in town for less than they're worth by driving out the owners. They bully the men. Bother the women."


"We have a police chief. He's a pleasant man. Very likable. But he does nothing. I don't know if he's been bribed, or if he's afraid or both."

"Sheriff's Department?"

"The sheriff's deputies come out, if they're called." she said. "But it's a long way and when they arrive, there are never any witnesses."

"So why are you telling me all this?"

She shifted in her chair, and pulled the hem of her skirt down as if she could cover her knees, which she couldn't. She didn't seem to be wearing any perfume, but she generated a small scent of expensive soap.

"They killed my husband."

"I'm sorry," I said.

"He was in the Marine Corps. He played football in college," she said. "He was a very courageous man. An entirely wonderful man."

Her voice was flat and without inflection, as if she were reciting something she'd memorized.

"He wouldn't pay the Dell any money," she said. "So they killed him."


"No one has come forward."

"How do you know it was the, ah, Dell?" I said.

"They threatened him, if he didn't pay. Who else would it be?"

"And you want me to find out which one did it?"

"Yes and see that they go to jail."

"Can you pay?"

"Yes. Up to a point."

"We'll come in under the point," I said.

She shifted in her chair again and crossed her legs, and rested her folded hands on her thigh.

"Why didn't you just sell and get out?" I said. "Move to Park City or someplace?"

"There's no market for homes anymore. No one wants to move there because of the Dell gang."

"And you knew Samuelson from your L.A. days."

"His son played for Steve . . . my husband."

"And you asked him about getting some help and he suggested me."

"Yes. He said you were good and you'd keep your word."

"A good description," I said.

"He also said you were too sure of yourself. And not as funny as you thought you were."

"Well he's wrong on the last one," I said. "But no need to argue."

"Will you do it?

"Okay," I said.

"Just like that?"


"What are you going to do?"

"Come out and poke around."

"That's all?"

"It's a start," I said.