Saturday, July 24, 2010


I've always liked Ed McBain. His novels are the direct inspirations to Law & Order. Akira Kurosawa thought highly enough of the books to adapt one of them into the movie High and Low. The 87th Precinct novels are like the Anti-Firefly. (Bye, Dave!) You'll find no smirking Space Confederates kicking people into spaceship engines or throwing swords at people. Just good people solving crimes by being smart and thorough.

I owe my appreciation of the series to my mother. When she wasn't busy making out with my friends, she could often be found at the pool with a library copy of a McBain novel in her hand.

As much as I love Roger Zelazny, I think his earliest work was his his best. (Donnerjack was pretty good, though.) Not so with Ed McBain. He wrote fifty four 87th Precinct novels, one or two a year, every year, for half a century, from 1956 to 2005, and each one was better than the last. Think about that for a minute. Fifty years. That's enough time to be born, grow up, fall in love, marry, become a parent, and then become a grandparent. And here I still think I'm hot shit because I've kept a blog for four years.

That's not to say that the older books are bad. I like them because they're period pieces and they are such interesting looks into the culture, technology and police practices of the time. Just dialing a phone in that era is different from how we do it today. Most older folks don't adapt well to changing technology and culture, but McBain never, ever had that problem. His books were always topical and he always seemed to understand modern society in a way that many senior citizens don't.

The books follow the detectives of the 87th Precinct in Isola, a a fictionalized version of Manhattan. Since the series has run so long, it follows a kind of comic book continuity, with a character with a background of serving in WWII in a book published in the 50s seeing that revised to a tour in Korea for the 60s, and up through Vietnam and the Gulf War for more modern books.

They're all pretty awesome, but my personal favorite is Money, Money, Money.

It was first published on September 6 2001, and the gist of the plot is that radicals affiliated with Osama Bin Ladin are planning a terrorist attack in New York City. It also predicted the government response to terrorism as both extreme AND ineffective. Also, a tiger at a zoo mauling someone to death over Christmas weekend as happened in the end of 2007 . I'm going to start looking for random sequences of numbers in the book and use them to play the lottery, because, clearly, this book has the power to predict the future.Coming soon, "The Ed McBain Code" by yours truly.

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