The Heckler, Ed McBain

87th Precinct mystery. Steve Carella gets shot again, this time by the “Deaf Man.” This is getting a little old, this constant use of Carella as a punching bag or the character around which the “mystery” is structured (like his sister’s wedding in an earlier novel). McBain has several interesting characters in the 87th, and he’s done Carella to death (literally, almost). What was “fun” here? The scene in which the break goes against the Deaf Man, who has carefully calculated and elongated the odds in his favor for getting away with his burglary. There’s still some horrendous overwriting here, although nothing as purple as the last novel. It’s amazing, to me, that these novels were bought and published. I know why I read them now, that is, because I’ve read the 1980s 87th Precinct, and know how good McBain gets, but how ever did he survive long enough with work of this poor caliber? Is there a Young McBain even now creating a series that we will look back at 20+ years hence publishing today? I doubt it. I think the publishing conditions and conventions were much different in the late 50s and early 60s. Today’s writer has to be much better with that first novel, and each subsequent one.

[Finished 3 April 1993]

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