Robert B. Parker's 1981 novel A Savage Place is the eighth in this prolific author's so-called "Spenser series," the series of detective novels featuring his erudite Boston, Massachusetts private investigator Spenser. While the overwhelming majority of Parker's Spenser series takes place in the author's (and his protagonist's) hometown, A Savage Place takes place primarily in Los Angeles, California, home to the nation's film industry. Adapting his title, and the novel's theme, from the well-known Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem Kubla Khan ("A savage place! as holy and enchanted / As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted"), Parker's shaped the plot of this novel around the ugliness that lies just beneath the surface of that most storied of industries, the movies. Boston Private Investigator Spenser travels to Los Angeles to work as a bodyguard for an attractive female television reporter, Candy Sloan, whose investigation into the pernicious influences of organized crime in the film industry has made her a target of the wealthy, corrupt businessman at the center of her inquiry.
During the course of A Savage Place, Spenser encounters no shortage of miscreants, some quite brutal, in a city known more for its persistent sunshine and seemingly sunny disposition. Spenser is ultimately unsuccessful in protecting Sloan, who is murdered, prompting some relatively benign vigilante justice on the part of the now vengeful private investigator. Sloan's death remains a consuming element in Spenser's mournful approach to his work.