Saturday, September 25, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 47

This is an ongoing series looking at books that influenced me as a fantasy writer.

Killer's Choice
by Ed McBain

Despite the fact I don't consider myself well read in hard-boiled fiction, I do love the genre. There's just so many other genres and books to read!

But to remind myself of how much I love hard-boiled detective stories, from time to time I make sure I pick on up.

And that's how I fell in love with Ed McBain's series of 87th Precinct novels that take place in the fictional city of Isola, which is a disguise for New York City.

McBain, who is also known as author Evan Hunter, began writing these novels in 1956 and continued to write them until his death in 2005. There were more than 50 novels in the series, and several short stories.

Killer's Choice was the first Ed McBain novel I read. I picked it up in used book store because it only cost a buck, it had one of those old-fashioned pulp covers to it, and because it was a thin novel, not even 200 pages, and I figured if I didn't like it at least it wouldn't take up much of my time.

I was blown away by this book. It's fairly straight-forward detective work in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but it was interesting to see law enforcement at work in the pre-computer, pre-cell phone and pre-Internet age. These officers did their work the old fashioned way, going door to door to talk to potential witnesses, running down to the morgue or across town to talk to someone, stuff like that.

Another thing that astonished me about this novel is that it is about 75 percent dialogue, and it's quick, brisk dialogue, back and forth, back and forth. And it works. It was a great way to tell this story of murder in the big city. Often the dialogue was simply an officer asking questions of a witness or suspect.

Since picking up this book, I've also read a dozen or so other Ed McBain novels, and I plan to read even more eventually. All of them are good, and the books written in the more modern world reflect the technology and changes in police procedures, but Killer's Choice is still my favorite of the lot.

Up next: The Bonehunters


Charles Gramlich said...

I like his matthew hope novels more than is 87th precinct stuff.

David Barron said...

I love that kind of stuff, but I can't name any writer in the genre, except Dashiel Hammett. Frustrating!

Ty Johnston said...

Charles, I've yet to read any of the Matthew Hope novels, but I'm planning to get to it sooner or later.