RARA-AVIS: Gregory Jones - Prowl Cop

From: Paul Farrell ( pm_farrell@hotmail.com)
Date: 14 Mar 2003

A couple of weeks ago Jim Doherty posted a message on the list asking about Prowl Cop (1956) by Gregory Jones, which had been listed by Anthony Boucher as a good example of the police procedural. I've had the book for a while, and the comment prompted me to read it .... (some spoilers ahead)
        The book starts off in promising James M. Cain territory with the story's hero, honest cop Johnny Gerand, being pursued by the lustful young trophy wife of the police captain, and Johnny's cop partner later offering him money to aid his (the partner's) divorce by getting involved with his wife. Lucky Johnny. After a lengthy story set-up, a murder occurs halfway through the book, a murder-deduction plot then unfolds, and any Cain comparisons disappear.
        It's an odd book to be referred to as a "police procedural", as it doesn't have much in common with other books that I've read in that genre (namely books by Georges Simenon, Ed McBain, and Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo). Despite the fact that almost all the characters in Jones' book are either policemen or wives of policemen, there are only a few scenes of the daily grind of police work, and little of the dogged investigation and clue-following that I associate with the police procedural. The story loses steam after the central murder occurs, and the occasional descriptive paragraphs that pop up early in the book notably disappear at that halfway point. I get the feeling the second half was a rush job.
        Prowl Cop isn't the worst paperback original that I've read, but it's mediocre, and suffers badly in comparison with another book that I was reading recently, Briarpatch by Ross Thomas. Now that's a good book.


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