Re: RARA-AVIS: The Police Procedural in the '50s

From: Ed Lynskey (
Date: 30 Jan 2003


All best for your mother's surgery. Quick question: What do you think of the "new" Dragnet series coming to TV? Will it measure up to the original Webb?

Ed Lynskey

--- JIM DOHERTY <> wrote:
> As I mentioned last month, the trend to presenting law
> enforcement as accurately as possible starts to pick
> up in the '40s with novels like Treat's V AS IN
> VICTIM, movies like THE NAKED CITY, stage plays like
> DETECTIVE STORY, and radio shows like DRAGNET.
> In the '50s, with DRAGNET simultaneously the most
> popular drama on both radio and TV, and one of the
> top-grossing films of all time, the trend starts to
> build into a wave, and there begins to be a widespread
> perception that this "semi-documentary" approach
> represents a new "school" or sub-genre of mystery
> fiction.
> Writers like Ed McBain and John Creasey (as J.J.
> Marric), frankly admitting to being influenced by
> DRAGNET, start long-running series about cop
> characters, basing the "police routine on established
> investigatory technique," to use McBain's phrase.
> Writers who have been known for completely different
> kinds of mysteries, like Frederic Brown in THE LENIENT
> BEAST, Herbert Brean in A MATTER OF FACT, and Doris
> Miles Disney in BLACK MAIL, try their hand at the new
> form.
> In his 1956 "end of the year" column for the N.Y. TIME
> BOOK REVIEW, mystery critic Anthony Boucher talks
> about this approach at length, citing DRAGNET as both
> the exemplar and the root source of the trend, and
> coins the term "police procedural" to describe it.
> The police procedural has arrived.
> P.S.
> Mom's twice-postponed surgery is, hopefully, finally
> taking place tomorrow, 30 Jan. Good thoughts and
> prayers during this day in particular would be
> especially appreciated.
> Thanks again for all the support.
> JIM D.


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