Book Review: The McBain Brief by Ed McBain

To begin with, I want to admit that I love Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels. McBain’s mastered the novel form and can inject his lyrical descriptions of the City, he can explore characters at length (both in one novel and in the series), and can add secondary characters with a few deft brush strokes. He’s the master of the quick read, and contrary to what English Teachers everywhere might think, it’s not that smutty.

However, the short story collection The McBain Brief is not an Ed McBain book. As “Ed McBain” says in the introduction, most of these stories were published under Evan Hunter or his other pseudonyms originally. This means, of course, that the stories will lack the Ed McBain voice, although many of the characteristics are there: The recreated documents, the cops with Italian names, the city (although in the stories, it’s really New York, not New York rotated 90 degrees).

But the flavor of the stories isn’t McBain. Some of them date from the 1950s, when Evan Hunter was first starting his Ed McBain line of books, so the writing and plotting are rudimentary. I wrote stories like some of these back in high school, when I was reading Ed McBain and trying to imitate the police procedural, or at least the police detective, style (and may the Roger Williams/John Regen stories remain buried until my heirs want to exhume them to squeeze an extra book, The Early Noggle, out of my desiccated corpse).

This book’s got:

  • “Chalk”, the study of a sudden murder perpetrated by a madman, told in a psychotic flashback. These days, this goes straight to video.
  • “Eye Witness”, a short piece that’s obvious from the minute it starts.
  • “A Very Merry Christmas”, a brutal, senseless piece about a brutal, senseless murder. Perhaps it’s the point, but the tedium’s not the message, marshal.
  • “The Confession”, another obvious bit that mirrors something I wrote twice in high school. I wrote “Vigilante” in English for fun and in Spanish because I needed something to kill (hem) four pages for composition.

However, nestled among the lesser filler material, the book’s got a couple radio-worthy hits:

  • “First Offense”, the first story, is a passable study of what they used to call “JD” and what we now would call a super-predator. Nowadays, too, the body count’s higher in the newspapers.
  • “Hot Cars”, which struck me as slightly O. Henry-esque, but not quite. A light-hearted little raw deal story for a con man. Maybe not O. Henry. Maybe I am thinking E. Leonard. One of those dudes whose last name is a first name.
  • “Hot”, an absolutely Hemingwayesque depiction of life aboard a Navy vessel in Cuba (Gitmo, donchaknow) under a brutal, and quite killable, commanding officer.

So if you’re a McBain or Evan Hunter fan, you might want to pick it up to see how his early writing developed. It’s not a long-term committment; I read it in a couple of hours.

You might want to pick it up out of curiosity for what passed for gritty cop fiction fifty years ago. Criminey, I even read a bunch of Elizabeth Linington for amusement, so Evan knows I am a sucker for them. A story about a mother who killed her baby? Buddy, in the twenty-first century, evil mothers do them five at once. A kid shoots his sibling? Yeah, so? Someone’s into pornos? Man, I get worse than what McBain characterizes in “Still Life” in my Hotmail account every day, and that’s just from my blog fans (Tom Jones gets underwear thrown at him, I get pix of the hot sexy married virgin sorority girls of the world who like to cheat). The crimes depicted in this collection are becoming more quaint every year.

Even the NFL Outlaws Orchestrated Celebrations

As St. Louis “Football” Fans know, the NFL no longer allows players to gather in the end zone like a string of can-can girls to taunt the opposing team with a revue designed to show their potence at scoring touchdowns.

However, that’s not the case for civil rights activists. This week here in St. Louis, a bunch of people gathered outside a bank where they successfully protested forty years ago. The celebration included picketing the bank for old time’s sake.

Of course, to the passersby, it looked like some group was picketing the bank for current grievances, not shouting the old-timers’ equivalent of boo-yeah for previous picketorial success. So anyone who remains influenced by a picket line — which is probably limited to members of the Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Sprinklerfitters union that promotes itself during Cardinals ballgames and to Dick Gephardt– probably wouldn’t go into the bank, which forty years ago capitulated to –I mean, negotiated a comprise with— the protesters. It looked like the bank had done something offensive, insensitive, or anti-proletariat now.

So let this be an object lesson to those who would alter their business practices to suit the agitators in the community. Even if you give up and give in or, infrequently, better your business at the behest of activists, you’re just setting yourself up for triumphant returns and celebrations in the future (if you’re lucky) or repeated shakedowns, I mean bilateral communication of community concerns if you’re not.

Great Paranoid Minds Think Alike

In an article on TechCentralStation, Ralph Kinney Bennett offers, among other things, architectural advice to thwart truck bombs.

On September 11, 2001, I worked in an office building shared by a United States government office, so I considered the changes in architecture, including setbacks and remote loading docks, that would offer greater safety for workers. However, I also expected a fundamental shift in everyday life following that day, and it’s not happened yet, fortunately.

As long as we remain relatively safe and the danger remains fairly low, underlying infrastructure won’t change, including architecture and law enforcement. Those poor dozens, or hundreds, of people who perish in the isolated attacks are expendable to keep prices low.

Of course, for all the paranoiac I portray, I still live in a suburb of a major city. Were I a committed paranoid, wherein my paranoia where schizophrenic instead of mere neurotic in nature, I would live in Wyoming or Montana with a bunch of guns and dogs instead of a mad-money IT job and a hot wife. Werd.

Someone Else’s Thoughts For The Day

Well, I got my first blog e-mail from a stranger (well, a living stranger–I have gotten plenty from the evil Spambots, no doubt). He said nice things about my blog, well, one, maybe. His signature included a link to a static site which has some of his collected musings. An amusing bit, but you schnucking geek snobs lay off about the design: he’s old enough to be my grandparent, werd, and he’s on WebTV. Read the words, and forgive the design.

A bit I particularly enjoyed:

When it be within my power to return a harm done to me, I consider which type of action will continue the discord and which will end it.

Me, too. I am all in favor of ending it.

The American Soldier

Because Heather likes kitties, you should look at the picture at the end of Kim du Toit post (of course, it wouldn’t hurt you to read Kim every day). This picture captures the essence of the American soldier, as only a former English major could explain it to you.

Look at that kid. Unlike the nutbars that pass for the irregulars in armies in most actively combative parts of the world, he’s not so enamored with his gun that he’s waving it, firing it in the air in an orgiastic pleasure in his own killing power. He’s got it ready, but he’s not enamored with death. His objective isn’t death, his or others, in itself, but sometimes it’s necessary. Sadly.

Instead of ranting, raving, foaming, or pillaging, he’s spending a quiet moment petting the kitty, a juxtaposition of Life in the dangerous, potentially deadly situation he’s in. The kitty represents the innocence of the civilians he’s protecting, and of the world to which he wants to return someday, whole and unscarred physically from his service.

Just from looking at the picture, I hope you come home, and I hope they let you bring the kitty if you want. Come on, Army, it’s a good story.

I Have Left My Mark

Movie Mistakes.com has posted my error about Terminator, The:

After the Terminator is destroyed, Sarah Connor is loaded into the ambulance
feet-first. In real ambulances, the patient’s head is closest to the front, not
the back.

I cribbed that bit of information from Encyclopedia Brown, werd, before I ever rode in an ambulance. Cannot report first hand about the orientation in the business end of a hearse, though.

ZOUNDS! Someone Throw An Atari Party, Stat!

Pejman links to a post on The Volokh Conspiracy that describes a story (whew! blogosphere lineages can sound like the beginning of a Viking epic, wot?) about the life college freshmen know.

Particularly interesting numbered points (which technical writers know should be bulleted since they do not define a prescribed order):

9. Atari predates them, as do vinyl albums.

11. They have likely never played Pac Man and have never heard of Pong.

Zounds! Someone should start a charity or something. Perhaps some government-sponsored history of arcade games!

On the other hand, get off my lawn, you damn kids! I have video games and console systems older than you! Where’s that garden hose?

This Story Could Have Saved Walter’s Eyebrow

My single reader, and by “single reader” I mean you, Tulsa, the sole bachelor amongst us, listen up! AskMen.com’s got an important story that gives you the signs she’s flrting with you. If only I had seen this earlier.

You see, when I was younger and single, I finally gave up trying to figure out if women were interested in me. Of course, I am a sexy man, as I well know, but I discovered that some women, frequently the ones I was interested in, did not agree. So I never honed my instincts to actually uncover when a woman was actively recognizing my sexy manliness. As I said, I gave up trying. Instead, I told my friends who had a clue to give me a sign if some woman was actually paying me that sort of attention. Scratch your right eyebrow, I said.

So I invited this hot chick I met on the Internet to a poetry open mike in U. City one Sunday night, and a couple of my buddies came along. Not so that I noticed, being I was so into this woman. Next morning, I wondered aloud whether this woman might be interested in little old sexy man me. My cohort Walter says, “Man, you see I don’t have any eyebrow left.”

I guess he was right. She is interested in me.

I’m Taking the Exclamation Point

Pud‘s linking to a story in which Abercrombie and Fitch are claiming ownership on the number 22 on clothing. More to the point, American Eagle Outfitters shouldn’t be allowed to use it, because Abercrombie and Fitch were the first to devise the addition of eleven and eleven. Perhaps both Abercrombie and his faithful henchman Fitch were polydactyl and each had six fingers on his left hand, so 22 is an important sum for ANF.

But if the next intellectual property grab is going to be numbers, alphabetical characters, or glyphs, I right now want to stake my claim on the exclamation point (!). Back off, you hosers, it’s mine!

The wonderful exclamation point, known to some as a bang (translated from the German “nicht”), is not just a character, it’s a way of life. !me, !now.

!funny to the non-geeks in the readership, but who cares? Any time they’re excited and say, “I love you!” in a love note, I’m suing. Werd.

Which Came First, Warlord of Mars or Martian Chronicles?

On the occasion of his 83rd birthday, Ray Bradbury admits that he read the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs and that they inspired him.

Rock on, Ray, and happy birthday belatedly. I hope science explodes with innovation in the next couple of years so you live to see children reading your novels under the covers a hundred years from now.

I read The Martian Chronicles before the John Carter novels, or at least the ones I have read to this point. But I once had a friend with a dog named Dejah Thoris, werd.

Spam Subject Line of The Day

Free Pics Of amateur Lesbians G...

Maybe I am a little behind the times, but I am not really up to speed on the eligibility requirements for amateur or professional standing in terms of your sexuality. Does “amateur” indicate that you’ve not taken money for practicing your sexuality and hence can practice your sexuality in the Olympics?

Or am I a professional heterosexual now that I have entered into a long-term contract? Aside from Vermont, Lesbians cannot turn professional, ever, so I am not sure matrimony or other long-term commitment makes you a pro.

Also, can someone illuminate me on the NCAA eligibility requirements? Can students get a scholarship for school-sponsored sexuality? I am sure there are lots of high school students who would like to spend their four or more years of secondary education working on their skills.

Am I reading too much into this topic and this spam subject line? Perhaps. But look on the bright side. In a couple of days, I will start getting the 733t G00gle Hitz for “Lesbian pics.” If only I could work in the words “Barely-legal” and “teen” into the post…..

That’s Not A MoDOT Criticism; THIS Is a MoDOT Criticism

Robert Prather, in the process of a move, has driven through Missouri and has criticized Missouri Department of Transportation’s expenditures on our highways here in the “Show Me the Tax Subsidy Money State.”

Robert said, as a bullet point in his post:

1. Missouri woefully underspends on its highways if I-55 is any indicator; there was a high positive correlation between the remains of blown tires and bumps in the road.

Well, he’s just a passerby, trashing our state’s foolish spending policies. In a comment on his site, I showed him how we residents do it:

Rest assured, Robert, that MoDOT’s right now spending ludicrous amounts of money to put together a five-year plan to road maintenance, just like last year, and its well-paid consultants offer the following advice, again:

  • Build more $600 million dollar bridges like the Page Avenue Extension to ferry affluent St. Charles suburban types into their jobs in St. Louis without the hassle of mass transit, which would not only bring them across the Missouri River into St. Louis, but could also bring St. Louis undesirables into the affluent areas;
  • Put up more soundproofing barriers so suburbanites who bought houses next to a highway don’t have to deal with the decibel consequences of the low house price;
  • Hire more administrators to devise more five-year plans;
  • Raise taxes some how, some way.
  • Slap a couple inches of asphalt on a couple lanes of highway, which will smooth that stretch until the next day in which the temperature climbs to ninety degrees or drops below thirty degrees.

But did you happen to notice, as you passed through St. Louis, any of the state-of-the-art public/private sports facilities, such as the Kiel Savvis Center, the Trans World Edward Jones Dome, or the site of the soon-to-be-built baseball stadium? If so, the legislators and powers-that-be hope, you would soon forget the obligations of the state government ignored to provide these amenities!

Book Review: The Multiplex Man by James P. Hogan

I read James P. Hogan’s Inherit the Stars in high school or early college, and I was easily smitten with his version of speculative science fiction mysteries. So when I hit Downtown Books in Milwaukee last week, I looked for an author with whom I was familiar, and I found James P. Hogan and The Multiplex Man. I started reading it that night, and I have finished it a little more than a week later. The elapsed time counter reflects the nature of the new job and all that rather than the nature of the book.

The Multiplex Man starts out on a good paranoid fiction note: A middle school (well, they call it “junior high” in Minnesota where the novel takes place) teacher Dick Jarrow has a normal day, with a normal visit to his experimental psychotherapist. He, Dick Jarrow, wakes up in a different body in the Atlanta Hyatt some months later and he’s got to figure out what happened. And why the authorities claimed he died.

The world in which this story is set reflects a dystopian future of the United States. It, and its allies, have been yoked by environmentalist concerns into rationing and authoritarianism. On the other hand, the newly-liberated East is known as the “Wild East” because its liberal, laissez-faire policies are not centrally planned. It’s a spooky projection that reflects what conservatives and isolationists fear most, and it’s odd because James P. Hogan published this in 1992. He wrote it before Kyoto and before Kofi.

I loved this book, and would recommend it if you’ve got a couple nights open in your schedule, or if you’ve got a book club with whom you want to discuss materialism and the nature of the human soul as reviewed through the prism of science fiction. Or, even if you don’t have a book club and just want to engage me in a discussion of the same over a couple of yummy Guinness Draughts.

Drink, Drink, to Charlie Fort’s Memory

(Apologies to Leslie Fish whose filk song “The Gods Aren’t Crazy (They’re Higher Than Kites)” produced the headline, and to my dear readers, who won’t find the song’s lyrics online and would be hard pressed to find the song on CD or cassette.)

Fark points to a story about the wonderful world of coincidences, and how the laws of probability indicate that every billion or so tries, a billion-to-one event will occur.

It’s only old Pan, and he’s crocked to the gills.