Thursday, May 28, 2020

Ed McBain's Mystery Book #1 (1960)

With the abundance of covid-19 time on my hands, I'm (yet again) sorting and categorizing my movies and books. I finally got around to tackle the petabytes of stuff downloaded over the years and have re-discovered a bunch of interesting stuff in the process. When I came across this one, I thought it would make a fitting choice to wrap up the recent cops killing and hatings posts.

Ross Macdonald was also a big reason to select it and Midnight Blue is - as expected - an excellent Lew Archer story written by the grandmaster with his distinctly elegant style and theme of messed up middle-class families. It keeps sidetracking the reader into obvious conclusions but finishes with a good old crime of passion. Sad and tragic with no winners once after Archer finishes his investigation. Not the most original or surprising ending, but I still liked it a lot for its fast-moving pace and more than a decent ratio of pages/corpse.

I'd known Anthony Boucher only by name before reading On A Day Unknown but this will soon change. Brilliant stuff, although I must admit that my knee-jerk reaction after reading a couple of pages was "For fuck's sake, not one of those". British (!) true-crime (!!) police procedural (!!!) - "The case was a splendid challenge to a pathologist."

But soon my dismay turned into curiosity and by the fifth page, I was enjoying this immensely. It's a tender and tragic love story of two lost souls taking place in England during the war years. The Canadian Indian soldier and a local British girl: 

"At first," said Sangret, "when I slept with Joan I used to have connexions with her sometimes two or three times a night and later on sometimes not at all." They had reached a state of intense need to be with each other even in the absence of sexual hunger - which may be one definition of love.

And you can imagine what the connextions are, don't you? If not, this will clarify things:

We started kissing and cuddling and I asked her if she would 'go with me.' I mean by this that I wanted to have connexions with her. She did not refuse in any way and I had connexions with her. I did not use a French letter and I just did it the natural way.

(Throughout, both in his long statement to the police and later on the witness stand, connexions is the normally monosyllabic Sangret's only word for sexual intercourse. One imagines that it was suggested by a police stenographer.)

There's not a single line of dialogue! The whole thing is written as court transcripts compiled from various testimonies that are complemented with the narrator's witty comments and observations (he was, however, totally and literally illiterate). Very original and very funny but also sad and poignant

The next one is Fletcher Flora. I liked his story As I Lie Dead from the Masters of Noir #1 but have since read a couple of his other things and wasn't much impressed. And after It was All the Girl had to Live For Now - Somebody Else's Death I'm even less impressed. Apart from its cool title, this is totally forgettable. Probably something Mr. Fletcher put together quickly to cover his rent:

A hitman (of sorts) shoots a politician during the rally because the guy had ruined his girlfriend's father. It then finishes with some wisdom about the revenge not solving anything and "he understood with silent and assured despair that he had killed two people from the window upstairs".

Richard S. Prather's Film Strip was no disappointment really because I pretty much knew what to expect. I just cannot get into his Shell Scott. His brand of cozy crime mixed with hard-boiled style doesn't work for me and I find its juvenile humor silly and sometimes idiotic and offensive. I mean, a teenage kid could call his girlfriend "my dear little imbecile" and maybe some of his friends would find it funny and laugh at it. But coming from a grown-up with white hair?

It begins with the "little imbecile" performing a private striptease for Shell on the beach while there's a murder in progress on a nearby cliff. It will also end the same way because the ridiculous plan to trap the murderer will go wrong. Shell is cornered by the killer in an empty movie theater and our exhibitionist cannot think of a better way to distract him so that Shell can take him over. Enough said...

Helen Nielsen's Confession plunges the reader into the midst of an angry mob that is about to lynch a couple of kids accused of hit and run. They break down under pressure and the boy signs the confession. During this riot, we get the full picture of what had happened in flashbacks. Well written, tight, and tense. Works well on both narrative and emotional level. But the happy ending and simplistic morality message spoiled it for me a bit. I think that the girl's "betrayal" would be more effective (shocking?) if the couple were older people and not some teenage kids eloping to Vegas to get married.

Hard Sell from Craig Rice is great. Fuck Shell Scott, this is the kind of humor that I like:

He found himself looking at a large man with iron-gray hair, blue eyes, and a prominent chin. The man looked so healthy that Malone wanted to turn away again.

Or, if you're not convinced, this (note that von Flanagan is a cop!):

Malone agreed. "You don't seem to be taking much of an interest in this one. Something wrong?"
"Plenty," von Flanagan said. "For one thing, it's an impossible one to solve. For another, I don't want to solve it"
"Why not?"
Von Flanagan shook his head wearily. "Malone" he said, "have you ever had a run-in with a magazine salesman? Have you ever had one of those little monsters stick his foot in your door and tell you how much you needed his rotten magazines? Have you, Malone?"
Malone nodded.
"They should kill every last one of them," von Flanagan said. "I mean it, Malone. Anybody kills a magazine salesman he deserves a medal."

Great stuff. Outrageous! One cannot but like the main protagonist Malone "the little lawyer" and admire his efficiency as he solves this one by mainly drinking at the bar and making some phone calls along the way.

With two double ryes under his belt and a pair of beer chasers keeping them company, Malone felt in condition to use the phone. 

Admittedly, the "suicide" solution is a bit bonkers and I'm not sure I really got it but I don't care. Like Mr. Boucher, Mr. Rice is another one on my radar from now on.

Moving on. Before the main feature, there's a cool intermezzo. A "special report" on the history of forgery and counterfeit titled Reasonable Fascimile, written by Rex Lardner. Educational I guess, but foremost funny. Quite a tongue in cheek stuff like this:

The earliest counterfeiters, who clipped coins and made new ones from the shavings, had their ears
clipped when caught. King Canute decreed that their hands should be cut off. The Romans deprived counterfeiters of their citizenship and then removed their ears and noses. Later, these steps not considered sufficiently discouraging, their ears, noses, hands, and feet were cut off and what was left was served to hungry lions. One presumes they were hungry.

It finishes on the resigned note that there's a bunch of counterfeited merchandise being sold these days but not much can be done to prevent this. It kind of makes you long for the days of good old King Canute.

McBain's 87th precinct novelette The Empty Hours is the main part of this digest and, I guess, it was its main selling point. But I won't spend much time on it because I don't want to repeat myself when it comes to this serial. But it is a bit paradoxical that in this one the police procedural methods actually hinder the story and make it less plausible.

For example, as we are approaching the end, cops are still (a week or so after the crime) for some reason interrogating the victims' neighbors and informers even though they have plenty of hard evidence and other leads to pursue. And btw, there's a description of a line-up that is more or less copy/paste-ed from the Cop Hater. And similar to that one, here too they find the solution by fluke.

The last story is Richard Matheson's chilling The Faces. A little psychological gem about the abuse and mental illness that (I believe) says that some people simply shouldn't have kids.

A good choice to finish this interesting collection with a flavor of horror.

4.5/5

Facts:

Dames:
From Midnight Blue:
She had on a plain white blouse, which was full of her.

From the Empty Hours:
She moved with an expert femininity, a calculated unconscious fluidity of flesh that suggested availability and yet was totally respectable. She seemed to have devoted a lifetime to learning the ways and wiles of the female and now practiced them with facility and charm. 

Body count:
3 + 2 + 1 (discounting of course the spiritual dead) + 1 + 1 + 3 + 0 (discounting the counterfiters devoured by hungry lions) + 2 + 1 = 14

References:
"On A Day Unknown" of course retells the story of Georg B├╝chner's Woyzcek (so now we also know from where the Boucher pseudonym is coming from). But even though I've seen Herzog's film, I must admit I didn't make the connection until once this play is explicitly mentioned at the end. 

Cover:
Pretty cool. It could be portraiting a scene from either The Empty Hours or Film Strip. But since none of the tough guys has white hair, I would lean more to the former.

Cool lines:
From Midnight Blue:
She touched her thin breast absently, pathetically, as if perhaps she hadn't been much needed in the past.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Killer Cop aka My Old Man's Badge (Ferguson Findley, 1950)

One of those that count on the reader to not pay much attention. You know the type. Books that we read on our morning commute in autopilot mode, craving coffee, and still half-asleep. Incapable or just too lazy to be bothered by the obvious story flaws and inconsistencies.

But in these strange covid-19 times I have plenty of time so I did pay attention and here's how the plot thickens in this one:
  1. Cops receive an anonymous letter tipping them that the cop killer from the past is back in town.
  2. The letter's paper analysis reveals its poor quality. It must be used in one of the cheap hotels around Bovery.
  3. They decide that the best way to handle this affair would be to send a man undercover.
  4. They do. This man, our hero, tracks down the guy who's selling the paper.
  5. This guy also runs the dope racket with a small gang of three misfits.
  6. And one of them just has to be the wanted cop killer.
Mind you, this is just the beginning. It gets crazier.

Before proceeding, it's worth mentioning right away that everyone drinks excessively in this one. Billie even eats her breakfast with whiskey! So you cannot help to think that maybe the author too had a slight drinking problem and was unable to keep the coherent story going for more than a couple of chapters. Not saying he did but such issues would certainly help explain the occasional switch from the first to the third narration. Or needlessly establishing a character that would be soon dropped without much explanation.

It seems like the editor (huh?) was losing patience as well the more he or she neared the end. We are treated with some hilarious stuff. Check this - our hero is chasing the bad guy and frantically shouting at witnesses "Where did he go?" but there's big blood trail splattered on the floor clearly pointing the direction.

Even our hero is not immune to the fatigue as this goes on. At one point, when weighting his options and assessing the possibilities of progressing the investigation, he simply abandons the idea and instead takes a nap:

It was interesting to think about, but I went to sleep instead.

Brilliant! And it had the potential to be one of those great little silly books. But it just doesn't know when to stop. Instead of wrapping it up with some sort of a bang, it goes on and on and on. True, even more silliness will follow but the whole thing is less and less amusing and more and more boring with every page you turn.

So I wouldn't recommend it for your commuting literature. You may fall asleep and miss your stop.

2.5/5

Facts:

Hero:
Johnny, the cop, who "prowls the Greenwich Village streets"

Dames:
Billie, the junkie night club singer:

If she was the Billie Bloomer who was expected, the bartender's observation of "everything's in the right place" was entirely correct. There was plenty of it, too, so much that Tony mentally asked himself, "True or false?" She dropped one of her gloves on the floor as she hung her coat in the almost empty check room. As she bent over to pick it up, he saw the answer was "true."

She's cool but the Countess de Callene is even cooler. Too bad she appears in just one scene and her character serves no purpose other than having sex with our hero:

"Do you think I'm pretty?" she wanted to know.
Well, she was. For all I could tell, she was a dope taker and a tramp and God knows what, but she looked darned good, sitting there in that room wearing nothing but a sheet, and I told her so.

Not really important, but it turns out she's not really of royal blood. And has a bit odd sense of humor:

"Were you born in Brooklyn?" I asked. "So was I."
"That makes us practically cousins, so we can't get married. All our children would be idiots, or Ptolemies, or born with two heads. I can't stand two-headed kids. Come over here and have another martini."

Wouldn't be fair not to mention his darling fiance nurse Mary. A typical girl next door, not interesting at all. But, unlike Countess, she does have an important role. For some strange but highly convenient coincidence, one of the bad guys is wounded and ends up in the hospital where she works. You know - "of all the hospitals in NYC she walks in mine",  And there's more. Upon realizing this guy is Johnny's suspect, she promptly decides to inject the poor sucker with a truth serum!!

Location:
New York

Body count:
It opens with a couple of corpses (see below) but this happens in the story that establishes our hero. Not linked directly to the main story so we can safely exclude them from the body count. In this prologue, we also witness the demise of Johnny's parents. We'll skip the mother but his cop dad's death is pivotal to the story so it definitely counts.

Besides the old guy, there are four more violent deaths, so the grand total is 5.

Muddy's death is the best one by far. When Johnny finds him dying "with the purple-lipped hole in his chest, where a wide knife had been slipped between his ribs" he asks him "What's wrong?"

The object of desire:
Johhny wants to find his father's killer but there's also a subplot that involves a shitload of heroin:

"We've got a nice little deal all arranged, Murphy. Couple of kilos of pure heroin, and I mean pure. It'll be worth a million dollars to us when we get it and cut it down."

Btw - cops have no problem with letting this deal go through so that they can get closer to the cop killer!

Blackouts:
Almost:

I dove across the table and had my fingers at his throat when Cookie knocked me on the head with the butt of his gun and I went limp. He didn't knock me out, but I pretended to fade away. It gave me a chance to think what to do next.

References:
One of the bad guys has issues with Irish lads so a cop provokes him by playing Molly Malone.

Here's the Sinead O'Connor's version. Always lovely to hear this sad and beautiful song.

Cool Blurbs:
"She Lived For Love - He Killed For It"

Which sounds cool but has nothing to do whatsoever with the story. Shouldn't be surprised really... published by Monarch.

Title:
Also misleading. Our hero kills only in the first paragraph and in the last sentence.

Edition:
Monarch Books #114, April 1959

Cover:
Pretty cool one. Even accurate in case it depicts the scene in which Johnny and the Countess meet. Obviously, before the two-headed kids stuff happens...

Illustration not credited. Any ideas?

Cool lines:
Great opening paragraph:

Smith & Wesson's Police-Model .38 is the smoothest-working revolver ever made, and yet I was having trouble breaking the cylinder to get rid of the five empties. It wasn't the gun's fault. It was mine. My hand was shaking as though I had been on the booze for three months, or as though I was a rookie cop who had just killed a couple of men.
Which I was.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Cop Killer (George Bagby, 1956)

I barely fell over the line with this one. Endless pages of convoluted sentences that can (and often do) switch context several times before they are finished. Written in some weird archaic language in which bodies are cadavers and there are not many nouns without accompanying adjectives like germinating, subcutaneous, lugubrious... Amusing at first, soon annoying but then simply distracting. Halfway through I lost interest and stopped looking up this crap in the dictionary.

The plot is decent, although a bit simplistic and could (should?) probably fit just as well into a short story or novelette. But still, every story point is re-established several times and sometimes even the most trivial facts are described with almost obsessive attention to detail. To make this (even) worse, the duo of our investigative protagonists keeps mulling over these facts over and over, thinking out loud about them and discussing the theories and possibilities. The word "would" is probably used several times on each and every page.

No action, no story development. There are times when this becomes apparent even to our hero. But his typical response would be something like this:

Schmitty shook his head. "Just keeping more angles open," he said, "until they close up on me. We need contusions or abrasions."

The most shocking aspect of this one for me was to realize that it was 26th entry of the series that would go on and run for another 27 books. So you collectors out there, if you're missing this one from his middle period, you may be interested to know that my copy is now available on eBay.  Give me a shout and I'll be happy to give you a discount. You deserve all the breaks you can get if you are planning to go through with this one.

Boring.

2/5

Facts:

Hero:
It uses the gimmick in which narration is in the first person and the author is supposed to be the narrator (he's not, his name is Aaron Marc Stein). Which is generally fine but in this case doesn't make sense. I mean, we know that Dr. Watson just tagged along with Holmes but you can't do that with the police inspector. Not unless you're in some sort of an official position to be able to do so. An assistant? Maybe his partner? At least his best buddy news reporter or private detective? We just don't know. All we learn is that he is "his ink-stained shadow, Bagby".

So de facto hero in this one would be Inspect Schmidt aka Schmitty. Bagby seems to be fanatically devoted to him with a passion bordering on something more than just a professional admiration. I simply couldn't share such sentiment. The only thing that makes this guy special (eccentric?) is his taking off the shoes whenever he gets a chance!? But more importantly, he's a bit of an asshole as he does fuck all about the savage beating some kid gets from his uncle or about the smacking that Miss Smith gets from Papa Black.

The bad guy(s):
The main suspect for the cop killing is a fifteen-year-old kid to whom more than a hundred pages are dedicated. Maybe justifiably since he is a true badass who started his criminal career four years ago with "rushing the theatre door" at the movies.

Dames
Miss Smith is the only female character (!) and she appears twice (!!) on a grand sum total of three pages. But she's cool, I liked her a lot. And btw, she delivers the only cool line in the whole book. See below.

Location:
New York

Body count:
2

Title:
See 'the bad guy' section?

Edition:
World Distributer Books, WDL M914, 1959

Cover
:
Same cover as the original Dell edition. By James Hill.

It's actually authentic in depicting the scene in which the kid is interrogated by the cops. They make him take off his shirt so they can examine the bruises his asshole uncle left him after giving him the "licking he wouldn't forget". Thankfully, these bruises are left out of the illustration.

Cool lines:
"Cigarette me, somebody," Miss Smith growled. "I'm half dead for a smoke.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Never Kill A Cop! (Hal Braham as Mel Colton, 1953)

Like in the last two posts, in this one too the cop gets murdered to kick off the proceedings. But unlike those two - where the whole police department would get mobilized - here nobody seems to be much bothered with the killing.

Even though our main protagonist is a cop, this is far from the police procedural. It's more like one of those small-town setups with local (corrupted) cops, (corrupted) politics, organized crime and - needless to say - scheming dames with some psychology thrown into the pot. You know, one of those that guys like Jim Thompson and Gil Brewer perfected and so when reading this, you can appreciate them even more and understand why they are such masters.

But don't get me wrong, this one is not bad at all. Just a bit chaotic. Starting with our hero who's a hot-tempered badass that gets in fistfights no less than three times in the opening four chapters alone. One of them happens like this:

He jutted his chin out. "Who are you, a cop?"
I blew smoke in his face. His eyes blinked momentarily. I ran a thumb along the side of my lower lip. I said: "You keep following me and I'll slap you flat on your ass."
He looked me over carefully. He said it before he meant to, I guess, because it was either rank foolishness or smart talk, because he muttered, "You're sure one tough bastard-"
He went flat on his ass.

So don't expect any witty verbal exchanges nor cool one-liners in this one. It needs to be said that he doesn't appear to be very bright either. He keeps getting deeper and deeper into a hole because of his totally irrational behavior. Surely, in a small town where everybody knows everybody, you wouldn't flee a bar after some brawl in which you have knocked off a guy unconscious? Can you really be surprised to find yourself a suspect after shooting at cops? Especially after discovering a body and for some reason neglecting to report it to the authorities... after deciding to keep the gun found in the dead man's pocket.

Thankfully, after a while, he does get his shit together and manages to solve the case. Although, if I wanted, I could probably easily found a bunch of inconsistencies that don't exactly hold water. But there's no need to do so. It's a quick entertaining read with lots of shortcomings that actually make it charming. I particularly liked the ending and found it cool that our hero decided to move to California and get some real education:

"Out West, in California," I interrupted, "they have schools for cops. They're teaching them to be trained, professional men in police work. I'm going out there to one. I want to be a trained cop, Phil. I don't want to have to use fists all my life to prove a point or get a confession."

Always a good thing to see people being aware of their shortcomings. Cops especially. And if I come across of the sequel to this book, I'll be more than happy to pick it up and check on Danny's progress in California.

3/5

Facts:

Hero:
Danny Harrington, a cop... for a while... until he's demoted... and then reinstated again

Bad guy(s):
Mr. Joslyn: the big shot gambler, the syndicate man from Centerville - the hub, the pivot.

Dames:
There's his girlfriend Irene and his sister Lil, but the main femme fatal in this one is definitely Martha:

Martha was sex. Sex wrapped up in cellophane. In a glass case. Never, never touch.

And speaking of sex, like most everything else in this book, it's depicted in some crazy manner that one needs to decipher. And which makes it sort of amusing. Check this as an example:

Then she began to groan and whimper and there was the suspicion of great pain, for there was constriction and there was desperation. There was the pressure of defiance, and the acceptance finally, and with the warm mellow glow that followed.

I think I can guess what the "Mellow glow" would be. But Great pain? Desperation?

Location:
The fictitious town of Bishop, fifty miles away from Centerville (huh), "the gambling syndicate's base of operations"

Body count:
5

Object of desire:
That, I think, is the biggest flaw because most of the time you have no idea what's driving this dude. Right after the opening killing, all he seems to want is to get laid. Either with Martha, his brother's wife (!) or with Irene, the girlfriend of his now ex-partner/friend (!!) who btw once saved his life. Then he gets this epiphany about "I've got to know the truth, one way or another" and finally is all about stepping out of the shadow of his younger, more successful brother.

And yet another example of this book being all over the place. But again, it's also something that makes it captivating. You simply don't know what's going to follow in the next paragraph let alone the next chapter.

References:
"Ever study Freud?" she asked quietly.
I shook my head. "Not much." I was watching the gun in her hand, and waiting for the tag line to come.
"This gun," she continued, "or any gun, is a male symbol."

Title:
Like in Never Kill a Cop, there's no comment needed. And they made the point in this one even stronger by adding an exclamation point to the end.

Edition:
ACE double D-19 MY

Cover:
Cool one by Bernard Barton. A bit ambiguous I think - Is she afraid of him or is she trying to seduce him? Maybe both?

Cool lines:
"I'd rather we talk about you," she replied.
"You're talking about trouble, kid," I said.
Martha turned quickly and faced me. Her lips were so damn close I could feel her breath. "Maybe I like trouble," she snapped.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Cop Hater (Ed McBain, 1956)

I have read quite a few McBain's books in the last couple of years and was saving this one for a special occasion. After all, it is the very first of the 87th precinct series that would go on and run for incredible half a century which - I guess - would make Cop Hater the mother of modern police procedurals. So after reading Never Kill a Cop, I decided to stick with the cop-killing theme and finally picked up this one.

In spite of its overly poetic tone (...dazzling galaxy of brilliant suns...) I was hooked after 30 or so pages. Written exceptionally well in the flat, matter-of-fact narrative that manages to elegantly mix the intimate family parts with very gritty and realistic stuff about the police investigation mechanics. To take the latter to an extreme, there's a number of various official forms pasted into the text (see the "Bad Guy" section of the facts below).

After some initial dismay, I wasn't too bothered by them and actually found them amusing and took time to read them instead of simply glancing over them. And I'm proud to report that I discovered an error in one of them: on the autopsy report, there's not explicitly stated that the measured height is actually the height of a skull so it reads like the victim was 28.9 centimeters tall (or should I say short). Check it out yourself:

Btw - what the hell is chronological age? Or, re-phrasing it - what would be a non-chronological age?

The best part of these technicalities comes quite early when the team needs to create a cast of the shoe heel left imprinted in dog shit (!!). If you'll ever find yourself in such a predicament, here's a formula that you need to use.

So, yeah - it's cool and we have a bit of everything here. Ballistics, various reports, autopsies, interviews, the line-up, and stool pigeons. Or, I should say, THE stool pigeon:

Danny Gimp is by far the best character in this one. The entire dialogue of the cops purchasing information from him (needless to say, taking place in a dingy bar a.k.a. his office) is written in slang and is such a joy to read. It's about three pages long so I have no intention of typing it here in its entirety. But it deserves at least its conclusion:

"I don't trust junkies," Bush said.
"Neither do I," Danny answered. "But this guy ain't a killer, take it from me. He don't even know how to kill time."

But I'm going too fast. Unfortunately, before I reached that part, I kind of lost interest. It simply gets bogged down too much. While I can understand the involvement of "the cynical newshawk" reporter Savage (to be honest, he does actually contribute to the story development), I found that whole segment about juvenile delinquents gang needles and pretty silly. It just took away the momentum so the book simply became merely interesting and stopped being thrilling.

What finally spoiled it for me, was the ending that felt like something hastily patched together with the "twist" that you could see way ahead. I bet that all the police procedural fans out there felt cheated as hell with such a climax in which police work doesn't really mean shit and the case break-through is so far fetched. Furthermore, it felt like the author himself kind of lost interest because (for example) towards the end he still found time to fill two whole pages with Steve and his fiance being in Chinese restaurant deciding on dishes they are about to order and decrypting fortune cookies...

Undeniably, this is good stuff but it's just not my cup of tea. For me, it's one of those where the total sum of its parts amounts to much less than it should. Feels like the author put all his effort into research and his skills into creating the atmosphere but pretty much neglected the story itself. Especially the ending sucks.

3.5/5

Facts:

Hero:
An ensemble cast, but Steve Carella is our main guy:

He was a big man, but not a heavy one. He gave an impression of great power, but the power was not a meaty one. It was, instead, a fine-honed muscular power.

Worth mentioning that in this one, he is partnered with Hank Bush and not yet with Bert Kling. But - spoiler ahead! - he will need a new partner once the case of the cop hater is finished.

Bad guy(s):
Check out Dizzy's record on your left. Do you think he could be our titular cop hater?

Dames:
There's Steve's fiance Terry and several soon-to-be cop widows like Alice (dynamic blonde with a magnificent figure) and May (full-breasted woman in her thirties...with good legs, very white, and a good body... who could get drunk sniffing the vermouth cork before it was passed over a martini)

And let's not forget about the prostitute La Flamenca:

"And La Flamenca?"
"She's with him, probably cleaned out his wallet by this time. She's a big red-headed job with two gold teeth in the front of her mouth, damn near blind you with them teeth of hers. She's got mean hips, a big job, real big. Don't get rough with her, less she swallow you up in one gobble."

Nice! This girl should have been a part of John Waters' Dreamlanders misfits. What a great pair she would have made with Edith Massey.

Location:
The city in these pages is imaginary.
The people, the places are all fictitious.
Only the police routine is based on established investigatory technique.

Body count:
3 dead cops and 2 persons on death row so it's safe to sum it up to 5.

There's also one unrelated death in an episode in which a housewife snaps and kills her asshole husband with a hatchet! This sad (and funny?) story is definitely one of the novel's high points and a great example of McBain's brilliant writing.

Blackouts:
none

References:
There's a reference to Joyce's Ulysses but its inclusion seemed a bit forced. Never read it but would still somehow agree with "Christ, that had been one hell of a book to get through."

Plus, when some suspect gets interrogated, he establishes his alibi by watching the following movies in the local cinema: The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Body and Soul, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Violent Saturday.

And what an incredible coincidence this was because I saw Body and Soul just the night before reading this! And a cool movie it is. Hazel Brooks is great even though her role is pretty minor.

Title: 
Somebody is killing cops so police assume they are dealing with the cop hater.

Dedicated to:
This is for Dodie and Ray

Edition:
Permabooks M-3037, 2dn printing - April, 1956

Cover:
Instead of the usual illustration, this one is a collage of photographs by Daniel Rubin. And it makes sense since they were going for realism so hard.

Cool lines:
"We didn't mean to disturb your beauty sleep," Bush said nastily.
The girl raised one eyebrow. Then why did you" She blew out a cloud of smoke, the way she had seen movie sirens do.

"Do I detect sarcasm in your voice, Lieutenant?" Savage asked.
"Sarcasm is a weapon of the intellectual, Savage. Everybody, especially your newspaper, knows that cops are just stupid, plodding beasts of burden."