Saturday, May 20, 2017

Money, Money, Money (2001)

With this late entry in the 87th Precinct series of police procedurals, Ed McBain was just about out of ideas and starting to run out of luck. There's little sense he's having much fun writing this. He doesn't even seem to like Steve Carella or care about any of the others. Carella's personal thread is something about his sister and mother both remarrying. He has issues. The story is a godawful mess involving counterfeit money, vicious Mexican drug lords, and terrorism. Here's where he's running out of luck. With Money, Money, Money, written between the November 2000 Cole bombing and 9/11 in 2001, McBain is caught looking like he can't imagine very big. In fact, the terrorists here verge on clownish stereotypes. Forty years earlier, in the first appearance of the Deaf Man (The Heckler), McBain imagined something more on the scale of 9/11. Money, Money, Money was written in the tail end of that historical period when radical Islamic terrorists were underestimated, shortly before we entered the period of overestimating them. Fat Ollie Weeks has another big role here. McBain obviously enjoyed working with him, but to me he's more often a bigot not redeemed by being smart. His eating is overstated and his pathetic pursuit of a creative hobby—piano playing, novel writing—is not that funny, sympathetic, or even believable. In general, Fat Ollie is not the comic relief McBain seems to think he is. McBain had lots of irons in the fire at the time, as Evan Hunter and otherwise, so I'll give him a break on a book I read so you don't have to. The cheapest available version now is the hardcover, and I was surprised to see how much "money, money, money" went into it on the original publication. The cover is green, like money, and the interior design riffs on a marking that's used to detect counterfeit $100 bills. So it appears McBain still had a respectable audience at the time. But it had to be faithful to the series by loyalty or habit.

In case it's not at the library.

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