87th Precinct

ed_mcbains_87th_precinct_mystery_197504Over the next few months I plan to review the entire 87th precinct series by Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter) and will index all the reviews here for easy access – here is the full list, in chronological order:

Cop Hater (1956)
The Mugger (1956)
The Pusher (1956)
The Con Man (1957)
Killer’s Choice (1957)
Killer’s Payoff (1958)
The-Mugger-by-Ed-McBainLady Killer (1958)
Killer’s Wedge (1959)
’til Death (1959)
King’s Ransom (1959)
Give the Boys a Great Big Hand (1960)
The Heckler (1960)
See Them Die (1960)
Lady, Lady I Did It (1961)
The Empty Hours (1962) [comprising three novellas]
McBain_Give-theBoy-permaLike Love (1962)
Ten Plus One (1963)
Axe (1964)
He Who Hesitates (1965)
Doll (1965)
80 Million Eyes (1966)
Fuzz (1968)
Shotgun (1969)
Jigsaw (1970)
Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here (1971)
McBain-Ten-plus-One-hbSadie When She Died (1972)
Let’s Hear It for the Deaf Man (1973)
Hail to the Chief (1973)
Bread (1974)
Blood Relatives (1975)
So Long as You Both Shall Live (1976)
Long Time No See (1977)
Calypso (1979)
Ghosts (1980)
McBain-Fuzz-signet-movieHeat (1981)
Ice (1983)
Lightning (1984)
Eight Black Horses (1985)
Poison (1987)
Tricks (1987)
The Last Best Hope (1988) [cross-over novel featuring Hunter's Matthew Hope character]
Lullaby (1989)
McBain-So-Long-As-You-Both-Shall-Live-signetVespers (1990)
Widows (1991)
Kiss (1992)
Mischief (1993)
Romance (1995)
Nocturne (1997)
The Big Bad City (1999)
The Last Dance (2000)
Money, Money, Money (2001)
Fat Ollie’s Book (2002)
The Frumious Bandersnatch (2003)
Hark! (2004)
Fiddlers (2005)

McBain_FiddlersThe police procedural, already established through the works of Georges Simenon, Lawrence Treat and Hilary Waugh, came into its own in the 1950s through the success of Dragnet starring Jack Webb, first on radio (1949-57) and then on TV (1951-59). This had a measurable impact on the McBain stories and Dragnet is in fact mentioned in several of the novels – in Killer’s Wedge Carella at one point says to himself , ‘Now if Joe Friday were here …’. McBain deployed the same basic format as the TV show but reacted against the its flat ‘Just the facts’ style to instead fully exploit the huge variety of stories that could be told using the squad as a corporate character. Some of the books are whodunits inspired by Agatha Christie (Cop Hater), others comedies verging on farce (Fuzz), some (featuring arch-villain ‘The Deaf Man’) are Westlake-like capers, others are religious allegories (the short story ‘And All Through the House’) and political satires (Hail to the Chief) and some even touch on the supernatural (Ghosts). There are also locked room mysteries (Killer’s Wedge) and stories of psychological suspense (Blood Relatives) and one in which the squad plays only a subsidiary role in a first-person tale of a seemingly perfect crime (He Who Hesitates). The main characters are Steve Carella, modeled on Hunter himself, and his deaf-mute wife Teddy; Bert Kling, who has a tragic love-life; red-haired ladies man Cotton Hawes and ultra-patient Jewish detective Meyer Meyer, both of whose fathers thought it amusing to saddle their sons with a comic first names; sadists such as Roger Havilland and Andy Parker; racist Fat Ollie Weeks; coffee-maker extraordinaire Alf Miscolo; pathologist Sam Grossman; and many more besides.

Mr McBain, I presume?

Hunter had hoped to write a concluding novel, to be entitled Exit, but the struggle with laryngeal cancer which he described in his memoir Let’s Talk: A Story of Love (2005), and which would eventually kill the author, made it impossible to go through with his idea. None the less there is a large and impressive body of work left behind for us to discuss and enjoy – a fine legacy. For more information on Hunter, McBain and the whole gang at the 87th, visit the author’s official website at: www.edmcbain.com/

39 Responses to 87th Precinct

  1. Ela says:

    Crikey, I didn’t realise that McBain had written so many books. My grandmother (who was a big fan of crime fiction) had two of his books, ‘Lady Killer’ and ‘Give the boys a great big hand’, but I never felt inspired to try reading them, unlike some of her other books.

    Good luck with the project!

    • Thanks Ela, I probably need all the encouragement I can get with such a long list! I plan to start review the opening three volumes very shortly with a view to providing a fairly consistent perspective on how the series did (and didn’t) evolve over time.

  2. Pingback: COP HATER by Ed McBain | Tipping My Fedora

  3. Jeff Pierce says:

    What an impressive project! I wish I had the time to take on such challenges. I’ll watch to see how this one progresses.

    Cheers,
    Jeff

    • Hello Jeff, thanks very much for the good wishes – I hope to come up with something valid and valuable (no matter how long it takes). It is quite possible I suppose that Mr McBain’s time has come and gone, but by going through the series more or less chronologically I hope to be able to chart its development. We shall see … 5 down, 50 to go!

      Sergio

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  16. westwoodrich says:

    I’ve been reading Ed McBain in non-chronological order. I haven’t read a bad one yet, but I’m finding it very hard to keep up with the characters’ careers and home lives, so I think your approach makes a lot of sense. My next McBain will probably be Sadie When She Died as part of my plan to read the CWA top 100.

    • Hello there, thanks very much for your comments. Sadie is absolutely one of the best of the series – if it weren’t for the fact that I had accumulated about three dozen of the books int eh series over the years I probably wouldn’t have even tries to do this chronologically – you lose a little by not doing it that way, but I don’t believe it is that important as McBain is very good at filling in the blanks for newbies. Looking forward to reading what you think of his 1972 classic.

      Sergio

  17. Pingback: Sadie When She Died | Past Offences

  18. Pingback: TEN PLUS ONE (1963) by Ed McBain | Tipping My Fedora

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  20. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    I’ve read all the McBains over the years and the early to middle volumes are definitely the best. His books are intensely readable and well written and you come to love the characters as if you know them. Good luck on your undertaking and enjoy!

    • Thanks very much for the kind words and the encouragement – from what I have read of the later, longer entries in the series, I suspect I am going to be in agreement with you.

  21. Pingback: HE WHO HESITATES (1965) by Ed McBain | Tipping My Fedora

  22. Pingback: DOLL (1965) by Ed McBain | Tipping My Fedora

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  30. How are you getting on with this series? Are you still reading? I’ve pretty much read the lot, but over many, many years and in no particular order. However, I’ve just embarked on a PhD which will take Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct Series as its central text, and so am currently re-reading the lot chronologically as well. I was delighted to find this site. Keep at it!

    • Another fan of the 87th – excellent! I will be reviewing the 25th book in the series later this month – it is taking me a lot longer than I anticipated just because I keep getting suckered into other reading challenges and then go a bit mad near the end of the year to try to complete them! I do want to complete the McBain run so will keep plugging as I really do enjoy them though I am slightly less keen on the longer later volumes on the whole – thanks for the encouragement.

  31. Pingback: HAIL, HAIL, THE GANG’S ALL HERE! (1971) by Ed McBain | Tipping My Fedora

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  34. Pingback: Review: Cop Hater by Ed McBain | The Game's Afoot

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