Re: RARA-AVIS: Ed McBain

Date: 13 Jan 2000

A few comments on this master (to some degree *inventor*) of the police procedural form.

First, his*true* name isn's Evan Hunter. That's a legal name he adopted in adulthood. He was born as Salvatore Lombino. I belive that, consciously or not, Steve Carella is, to some degree, a self-portrait.

Second, it's very interesting to read the NYC-set police procedural short stories he wrote as Hunter and other names (i.e. "Small Homicide") before begining the 87th series, as embrionic versions of the 87th Pct. mysteries. The *Dragnet* influence, which McBain has always acknowledged, is especially apparent in those short stories and in the earliest novels.

Third, William DeAndrea has also made the "extended novel" observation in his *Encyclopedia Mysteriosa*. He called the 87th Pct. mysteries the best extended portrayal of NYC ever written, this despite the fact that McBain pretends that he's not writing about NYC at all.

Fourth, it's hard to choose a favorite because the quality of the series has been amazingly even throughout the forty-plus years he's been writing them. But I'd have to say *The Heckler*, which of the Deaf Man sub-series, is the one in which the hyper-realism of the police procedural, and the essentially unbelievable melodrama of the Moriarty/Fu-Manchu super-criminal are most effectively combined. Runners-up: *The Pusher*, my intro to the series, *See Them Die*, excellent book-length study of the "barricaded suspect" situation in pre-SWAT days, and *Ice*, my favorite of the more recent entries.

Fifth, when I first started reading the series I was 13 and Steve Carella was in his early 30s. Now I'm towing 40 and Steve is in his late 30s. How does he manage that?

Sixth, somone mentioned Sjowall & Wahloo. I recall reading an interview in which the Wahloos said they were inspired to write Swedish-set police procedurals after translating several of McBain's novels into Swdish. They even broached the idea of having Martin Beck travel to the US to cooperate with Steve Carella on an international case, but the proposal never cam to fruition.


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