I’ve read The Godwulf Manuscript many more times than I can remember, certainly more times than any other book (and listened to the audio book many times too) and I never get tired of it. The reason for that repetition is that I keep reading and listening to the “complete” Spenser saga every few years. Each time I take that journey there are more books in the series, but I always start with the first, and this is it.
Though Spenser has his Marlowe moments, his overall tone and attitude is much more Oppish, and Parker steered clear of the Chandleresque similes that other writers turned into parody.
Parker also borrowed a major plot element from the second Op novel, The Dain Curse. Like the Op, Spenser must rescue a young woman from a wacko cult bent on performing abominations on their initiates. In The Dain Curse it was The Temple of the Holy Grail. In this book it’s called The Temple of Moloch.
The most obvious hat tip to Chandler is Spenser’s first love interest, a woman named Brenda Loring. She’s clearly a literary descendant of Linda Loring, the woman Marlowe met in The Long Goodbye, and married sometime between Playback and the unfinished “Poodle Springs” story. Parker, of course, later finished Chandler's story, and it was published as the novel Poodle Springs in 1989.
At this stage, Spenser’s character is not fully formed. While he never becomes allergic to alcohol, he drinks more here than he probably does in the rest of the series all together. On one stakeout alone he consumes a dozen cold MacDonald’s hamburgers and a pint of Wild Turkey. In this book he also has a hobby - woodcarving. The carving is mentioned briefly in the second novel, and alluded to in a couple more, but after that it’s quietly dropped.
Other elements, though, are here to stay, like Spenser's joy of cooking, and the characters of Boston cops Martin Quirk and Frank Belson. (Susan Silverman makes her first appearance in book two, and Hawk in book four.)