Monday, November 13, 2017

Fuzz (1968)

I got to this entry in the 87th Precinct series of police procedurals by Ed McBain late, partly because it's another odd bird as commercial product. Is this some matter of unusual holders of publishing rights? Even the kindle version is more expensive than most, which is the kind of problem seen more often in the 87th Precinct novels from the '90s and later. Fuzz was made into a movie in 1972, set in Boston and starring Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch, which might explain it. McBain wrote the screenplay using his Evan Hunter pseudonym. I haven't seen the movie. One of the plot lines is about teenagers who are hunting homeless people and setting them on fire, and shortly after the movie was released a number of copycat incidents occurred in Boston and Miami, for which the picture was blamed. That might explain it too, as similar problems followed release of A Clockwork Orange a year earlier and that movie was banned in London as a result. At any rate I'm glad it took a little while to get to it because Fuzz is actually a pretty good one, much better than the later titles I've been getting around to lately. It's short, barely 200 pages, but juggling three separate stories. The main case is another Deaf Man episode, with heavy emphasis on the masterful criminal masterminding, conducted with great mastery. As always, his antics are exaggerated to superheroic proportions. Here he is killing Isola city officials (with the greatest of ease) and demanding increasingly high extortion amounts to stop doing it. So it's a mixed bag—the Deaf Man episodes are always comic book jive, though Fuzz is not as bad as some of the others (notably his perfectly unbelievable introduction in The Heckler). The other two cases—the arson assaults on the homeless, and a weird stick-up plot that's there mainly to service the Deaf Man resolution—are more or less weak sauce, but McBain's writing is more vivid and freewheeling even than usual. Basically, it feels like he had more fun writing it. Whether it's worth paying the collectible premium is another matter, but you can easily enough get your hands on it for $10 or less.

In case it's not at the library.

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