Re: RARA-AVIS: procedurals?

Date: 22 Aug 2002


Re your question below:

> Why must these two [Mat's classifiction and mine] be
> mutually exclusive? Yes, Mat
> set DINs up as a
> different animal from PPs, but couldn't they simply
> be a subgenre? And
> although I am now convinced that Rebus, for
> instance, does fit within
> the Doherty Dogma of Police Procedurals, isn't it
> pretty obvious that
> there is a difference between them and, say, the
> 87th Precinct books?

Mat's classification is useful for describging a certain type of story in which the protagonist is a cop, but there's no effort, or even pretence, of police work being portrayed accurately. Two that come to mind are Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn or Earl Derr Biggers's Charlie Chan. In both cases, the heroes are cops, but there's no sense, nor (and this is the crux) is there MEANT to be any sense, that we're seeing a fictional depiction of how real cops operate (notwithstanding the fact that Chan is said to have been inspired by real-life Honolulu police detective Chang Apana).

My disagreement wasn't with Mat's concept of novels featuring cops that shouldn't be classified as police procedurals. It was with Mat's assertion that the Rebus books fall into this category.

As for McBain's ensemble approach giving a different feel than Connelly's or Rankin's "lone-wolf" approach, I'll certainly grant that. But Marric's "juggling of several unrelated cases by a high-ranking police executive" approach gives a different feel than William Caunitz's "through the eyes of middle-management" approach. And they're all different from the "law enforcement specialist" approach taken by, say, Thomas Walsh in his novel about railroad cops, NIGHTMARE IN MANHATTAN. That's a function, first of all, of different writers with different styles, and, second of all, of the infinite variety of law enforcement that novelists can choose to depict. It's not a function of whether or not a book is a police procedural.


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