Book Report: Hark! by Ed McBain (2004)

I bought this book at the Carondolet YMCA for $4.00, but it’s in almost new condition, and I hadn’t read this book, and Ed McBain died this summer. So again I set aside my normal reluctance to spend that much money on a book.

Hark! is a Deaf Man book. There’s no other way to put it. Normal crime goes out the window in this book, as the Deaf Man again taunts the boys (and girl) of the 87th Precinct with a set of clues about what he plans to do, knowing that they won’t be able to stop him. Or so he thinks.

As always, these books include a lot of details in the lives of the characters. McBain kept up a tight schedule on publishing these novels, particularly in the last couple of years, so we can forgive him for what might have been an increased serialization of the private lives–although the books always had some of that. Something else striking about this book is that it refers to actual contemporary political figures–Bush and Blair–, contemporary musicians–the John Pizarelli trio–, and contemporary events–the war in Iraq. His earlier books used common nouns or made-up details, which has preserved their longevity and readability into the present. For example, a veteran returning from “the war” proved a relatively malleable archetype: it could have been Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, or the current wars depending upon the decade in which the reader encounters the book. By naming specifics, McBain has limited the future reach of these books.

But one can become as morose as Travis McGee lamenting that not only is the concept of reading books becoming meaningless in man’s blithe march into media-mandated illiteracy and technologically-enabled idiocy, but with Ed McBain’s death, the potential number of 87th Precinct novels (or at least those for which Evan Hunter is responsible) has become finite and the actual number of books I have not read will now slowly tick down to zero, much like life itself.

Man, that’s depressing. I think I’ll while some of that time away mindlessly by playing Civilization.