Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Allan Guthrie's Top 200 Noirs

From: Patrick King (
Date: 22 Dec 2007

--- Eric Chambers <> wrote:
 but for me there are just too many 87th
> Precinct books. Like Gardner's Perry Masons, they
> are all likely very good, but I'm not in a hurry to
> find out.
****************************************************** You know, I wouldn't say that about Perry Mason. The problem with Gardner is that I never remember them a week after I've read them. For the most part I find Perry Mason mysteries poorly plotted, terribly resolved--somtimes almost not resolved, the book just stops, and the characters are paper thin. Gardner's characters look, as he describes them, exactly like what they are and they behave predictably. As a writer, too, Gardener is too judgemental of his characters and his point of view is tediously conventional, particularly for a writer who's lawyer hero could get disbarred in every novel for the way he treats evidence and truth. How is it he can always find a cab when he wants one? How does he make every timed maneuver work perfectly. Reality never enters Mason's world. He always know exactly what to say.

The 87th Precinct novel are oposite of this in every respect. The stories resolve in a completely different way than the reader might expect them to in the beginning of the book. The characters' behavior is seldom predictable. Frequently characters who seem to be one thing turn out to be completely different. Criminals may behave heroically, law enforcement is often petty, jealous, and misuse their authority. Characters are driven by lust, emotional quirks, and often unexpected twists foil beautifully organized robberies or raids. The crimes in McBain's books are so well described and vivid I feel like I'm watching Court TV rather than reading fiction. There may be a lot of 87th novels, but, man, are they good!

Patrick King

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