Friday, October 02, 2015

FFB: Fiddlers -- Ed McBain

A Friday's Forgotten Books devoted to Ed McBain?  Okay, I'm on board for that.  He's certainly a favorite of mine, as anyone who's followed the blog for long probably knows.  I've written about him as much, or more, than I've written about another of my favorites, Lawrence Block.  I didn't realize how much I'd written about him, in fact, until I did a little searching on my blog.  Check out the links below.  They're the major ones, but there are a good many others I could have added, as well.  The review below, with only three of the links, originally appeared on September 12, 2005.

I've mentioned my admiration of Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain, among many other pseudonyms) before. Here, here, here, here, herehere, herehere, here, here, here, here, herehere, here, and here, for example. So it was with a little bit of sadness and regret that I picked up Fiddlers, which, because of McBain's recent death, is probably the last of the 87th Precinct novels. 

McBain hasn't lost a step with age or illness. I'm sure you can think of a writer or two who should have stopped writing long before the end of an extended career, like an athlete who plays one season after his talent has deserted him. McBain wasn't one of those writers. He's just as sharp now as he was when I first read one of his books more than 50 years ago. Maybe sharper. I think that his body of work is about as impressive as that of any writer during the second half of the 20th century.

For me, it was impossible to read Fiddlers without having McBain's final illness in mind, and I'm convinced that he had it in mind, too. Just how much, I'm not sure. Is the book a grim joke in its own way? Autobiographical in any sense? I don't know. I do know that it's a typically well-written procedural with appearances by Steve Carella, Meyer, Bert Kling, Cotton Hawes, and Fat Ollie Weeks tracking down a serial killer. The stories of their personal lives aren't resolved, exactly, but I think readers who have been following them for many years, as I have, will be satisfied with their final appearances.

When I closed the book, I thought, "Well, that's it." But it's not. I can always go back and start over at the beginning of the series with books like The Mugger and The Pusher. I probably won't, but the possiblity is always there. McBain will be around for a long, long time.

9 comments:

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Sad, but all things must end. I think the later books in the series were enriched by the addition of Fat Ollie Weeks, a great character and a much shrewder detective than first appearance would indicate.

Jeff

Bill Crider said...

I agree. Fat Ollie was a great addition.

George said...

I'm a Fat Ollie Weeks fan, too. He was one of the best detectives on the force despite his "weaknesses." Yes, McBain's illness affected his last few books.

Mathew Paust said...

Lucky me, I've just returned to the 87th after a false start so long ago I'm sure I could read that one book again and not recognize it. And now I know I have a long road to travel to get to Fiddler.

Bill Crider said...

A long road, but a lot of good books.

Max Allan Collins said...

I love the 87th Precinct books. From the point I discovered the reprints -- tied-in to the TV show! -- I bought the books in hardcover. But I disliked the Weeks character. He was just W.C. Fields and I thought it was a lazy characterization that McBain/Hunter got too enamored of, and ran into the ground at the expense of the longer-running, more interesting cast members.

Looks like I may be wrong, considering the smart people who took to him.

Don Coffin said...

Sold me another book. (My favorite memory of the series--I don't remember which book--is when a witness's use of the word "carpenter" (or is it *a* word?) is a clue to the mystery.)

SteveHL said...

Don, that book is LADY, LADY, I DID IT!

Don Coffin said...

Thanks, Steve. Why am I not surprised someone around here knew that?