Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here (1971)

The basic conceit of this volume in the 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter, which was not his real name either) may feel just slightly belabored, but I like the gimmick a lot anyway: a 24-hour ticktock from midnight to midnight following along with pretty much all the detectives of the 87th Precinct (hence the title, one presumes) as they go about their daily business. It's a short novel that basically breaks into two longish stories: "Nightshade" and "Daywatch" by names. It's a real jumble of police business, one of my favorite flavors of the procedural, perhaps best exemplified by the Jack Webb TV series Adam-12, which was less often one big case and more often three to five small threads of case work, some left unresolved. I have to say there's also some welcome relief for me that insane people with or without knife fetishes are missing from this one—they can be overworked in the series. I think these somewhat more low-key efforts are where McBain really did his best work in this series. I wonder if part of that isn't the constraints of the gimmick, reminiscent of those great and strange crime novels of the '30s and '40s such as They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, The Big Clock, or Night of the Jabberwock, which among other things chipped in to an intensely creative time in the genre. In fact, Hail, Hail includes a ghost story in the nightshift section. There's a detective here, Kapek, who's not familiar to me. I realized, after I finished a burst of McBains toward the end of the year, that I didn't even get to very many of the titles from the '50s and '60s. I would think there are plenty of McBain partisans who might swear on either or both of those decades as his best, and I may yet include myself among them. Certainly the '90s and later seemed weaker, and there are some continuing problems with the '80s. It's a lot of books, after all—some 54 novels plus miscellaneous. That reminds me, I need to catch up on Dragnet again. Look, I'm just nutty for police procedurals. My favorite TV show of all time is Law & Order. McBain is plain one of the masters.

In case it's not at the library.

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