Contribution

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Ed McBain’s fifty-plus 87th Precinct novels rank him among the most prolific authors of police procedurals. Acclaimed the best in this genre by, among others, the Mystery Writers of America, McBain won a Grand Masters Award in 1986. His knowledge of police methods was thorough and convincing; the 87th Precinct novels focus on them with a ruthless economy that adds to their excitement, information, and entertainment. In spite of this singular concentration, McBain nevertheless managed to present his readers with several plausible, three-dimensional—though never complex, profound, or overpowering—characters who operate in an otherwise largely implied, lightly sketched and labeled urban landscape. McBain’s special skill lay in his keen depiction of these characters as trackers and the unwavering quality of his narrative gaze. A major contribution of the 87th Precinct series to the genre has been to establish the ensemble detectives scenario in the popular consciousness. Long before the television series Hill Street Blues (1981-1987)—which many readers believe was based on McBain’s series—the detectives of the 87th Precinct set the standard for intelligent police procedural featuring a group cast. In addition, McBain’s Matthew Hope series, begun in 1978 and concluded in 1998, as well as suspense and mystery novels written outside the two series, furnish the genre with many compelling, complex, and involving works.