RARA-AVIS: Procedural month

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 04 Sep 2002

Next month we start working our way through the history of hardboiled and noir writing, but this month is your chance to read a police procedural and think about how it relates to the hardboiled school. It seems generally accepted that they're related, starting with Ed McBain and the 87th Precinct books. I have to admit I've never much liked them, even a Deaf Man book I tried, which people here have said are his best.

Anyway, McBain's got a tough style, and because of the subject matter and repertorial approach, procedurals get classed near to hardboileds in the great scheme of mystery organization. Verisimilitude is hard to achieve with private eyes these days, so writers who want to work in a hardboiled style may write about police detectives instead, for example Michael Connelly and the Harry Bosch series.

Over the last year I read Sjowall and Wahloo's series of Swedish procedurals, which they based on McBain's series. A couple of them are noticeably worse than the others, but most of them are very good. Book by book they expand the scope, adding more characters and more social commentary. They have a hardboiled nature to them, perhaps because of people like Martin Beck, who's reticent, irascible and cold.

Mr. Doherty's been posting notes about procedural writers. I hope he and Mr. Shafer (and others I may have forgotten) will be expert witnesses for us this month. I'm not sure what I'll be reading but I may reread THE BLACK ECHO, the first Bosch book, to see how procedural it is. I already know how good it is.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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