HAIL, HAIL, THE GANG’S ALL HERE! (1971) by Ed McBain

McBain-Hail-Hail-doubledayTo celebrate the 25th entry in the 87th Precinct series, Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter) tried something new with this triple-decker of a novel incorporating 14 separate storylines!

“This modest volume is dedicated to the Mystery Writers of America, who, if they do not award it the Edgar for the best ten mystery novels of the year, should have their collective heads examined.”

The following review is offered as part of Patti Abbott’s Friday’s Forgotten Books meme over at her fab Pattinase blog.

Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here! (87th Precinct series #25)
First Published: 1971
Leading players: Steve Carella, Bert Kling, Arthur Brown, Meyer Meyer, Bob O’Brien, Sam Grossman, Andy Parker, Carl Kapek, Cotton Hawes, Hal Willis, Dick Genero, Alf Miscolo, Danny Gimp, Monoghan & Monroe, Fats Donner, Alexandre Delgado

This is a wholly unusual book in the series both in terms of structure and to a degree content – for starters, it has no chapters. Instead it is subdivided into just two sections: ‘Nightshade’ dealing with the night shift, followed by ‘Daywatch,’ providing us with a ‘day in the life’ of the 87th (a Sunday to be exact). The main plots are something like this:

  • McBain-Hail-audioO’Brien & Kling arrest a woman who stabbed her husband and two small children
  • Carella & Hawes solve the case of a dancer from a racy show who has been stabbed to death outside her theatre
  • Meyer investigates a haunted house
  • Kling looks into a hate crime when a bomb is thrown into a church
  • O’Brien finds a missing daughter
  • Willis & Genero look into an apparent suicide
  • Brown looks for a missing husband
  • Parker is shot during a robbery at a grocery store
  • Kapek finds out who rolled a marine
  • Delgado looks into an assault on a Puerto Rican businessman
  • Brown locks up a paedophile
  • A drunk snaps off car aerials
  • Kapek deals with a soliciting charge
  • Most of the team helps investigate the Parker shooting even though they hate him

“The woman smiled so suddenly and so radiantly that it almost knocked Genero clear across the hallway to the opposite wall”

Some of the stories are light (ghosts who steal jewellery, two prostitutes who upset a tourist), some very dark (a child molester who really thinks he hasn’t done anything wrong), a few mere vignettes lasting a three or four pages, while others are much more substantial. From the latter the standout is probably the case in which the dunderhead Genero is partnered with Willis to investigate a young man who seems to have jumped from his apartment to his death. Eventually it turns out the victim was not alone and Willis’ relaxed interview technique leads brilliantly to a confession when the case previously seemed open and shut. Just as interesting is Delgado’s investigation into the apparently motive-less beating up of a realtor which ultimately leads to a solution but from which the detective opts to walk away.

“I killed them all,” she said.

The book has a strong celebratory feel to it with practically the entire roster of characters making some kind of appearance and in the process provides a great showcase for McBain’s ability to juggle humour and tragedy and keep many, many balls in the air at the same time. It’s a bit too much of a one-off to be the best of the series but would make for a great jumping-in point for McBain newbies – but do such readers exist?

To read my reviews of the previous 24 entries in the series, and a full list of all the titles in McBain’s canon, see my dedicated 87th Precinct page.

***** (3.5 fedora tips out of 5)

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28 Responses to HAIL, HAIL, THE GANG’S ALL HERE! (1971) by Ed McBain

  1. Colin says:

    I’m going to look for a copy of this title – the structure sounds fascinating. It seems almost like a bunch of short stories all woven together.

    • Hi Colin – well, you’d be right there – and one should say, upfront, that is isn’t a book of stories like Chesterton’s The Club of Queer Trades, Stevenson’s The Suicide Club or Machen’s The Three Impostors in which they are all tied together at the end. In a way what this delivers is the nil plus ultra of the procedural approach, providing a sort of prismatic condensation of a policeman’s lot – but it is very lively, very well done – I liked it a lot anyway!

  2. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    I always thought that McBain was brilliant at tying his various storylines together (even leaving one book to be resolved in a later one). I wish I had enough time in my life to re-read them all!

  3. Sergio – Thanks for the excellent review. I love that dedication! And I really respect Hunter/McBain for trying something completely different and innovative. Not many could get away with that. And yet it’s quite realistic when you think about what real cops do and how they work their cases.

  4. Good choice, Sergio! I like the line up of 87th Precinct sleuths and would love to read this collection of stories. I’ll be looking for a copy of this novel too.

  5. Richard says:

    Not being with the cast by name or adventure, I’m afraid this just sounds confusing to me. As I read the list of “cases”, I kept getting flashes of Barney Miller.

    • Well, fair enough, though in the books the characters are always introduced as new so any book is a good jumping on point, honest! McBain got in there 20 years before Barney Millerr, but that was a fabulous show though, no question.

  6. Richard says:

    Darn. I meant “Not being familiar with”.

  7. Yvette says:

    I’m a newby, Sergio. I never thought I’d say this: but this looks like something I might like. :) I tried reading this author a long while ago but for whatever reason I was put off by the make-believe name for what is meant to be New York. Don’t ask. I don’t know. I’m just peculiar that way. Ha! But maybe I will take another look. Thanks for the prompt.

    • Thanks Yvette – well, I’d consider that to be a personal vistory! Yes, Isola, not that original as it just means island in Italian as it is just New York turned on its side – I can’t believe that was meant to fool anybody though!

  8. Like Jeff Meyerson, I’ve read all the 87th Precinct novels. This one is about mid-way through the series. I marvel that McBain was able to keep the quality of the books consistently high.

  9. 282daniele says:

    Sergio, il mio blog italiano è passato sotto wordpress, nella sua versione più completa. Sommariamente sto modificando testata, titolo, widget ecc. Non mi ricordo solo una cosa. Per inserire sotto il testo di un widget creato apposta, Romanzo in corso di lettura (come nel caso tuo, Currently off the shelf) l’immagine del libro corrispondente come si fa? Lo feci sull’altro mio blog wordpress dopo che me lo spiegasti tu, ma poi l’ho dimenticato. Mi si apre Widget testo, poi sotto aggiungo il titolo, come lo chiede lui, ma poi non so come inserire immagini. Oppure ho sbagliato ad inserire il Widget (testo, html libero)?
    Grazie
    Piero

  10. Excellent review, as always! I liked this one when I read it, and I think you nailed the reason when you pointed out the celebratory feel. I’ve always felt it’s a great jumping-in point for new readers: it introduces all of McBain’s sizable cast and transitions between his many writing styles and themes with relative ease, humorous one moment, grim and serious the next. Of the 87th novels I’ve read, I thought this one was the most fun, even if others are better mysteries or stronger novels.

    • Thanks chum – I didn’t go into as much as depth as your review here of course, and I should have linked to that one earlier, where you are very correct in pointing to the need to suspend one’s disbelief in terms of the narrow time frame in which everything is supposed to happen – maybe it should have been spread out over a week …

  11. TracyK says:

    OK, I am falling behind keeping up with your posts and I blame it all on work. I think I need to retire and just read all the Ed McBain mysteries. This one sounds great (if very different) and I hope someday I get this far.

  12. Pingback: Classic crime in the blogosphere: December 2013 | Past Offences

  13. justjack says:

    Glorious, Sergio. A fine review of an excellent book.

  14. Pingback: SADIE WHEN SHE DIED (1972) by Ed McBain | Tipping My Fedora

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