Thursday, 14 June 2018

Tracking down the cover location of THE EMPTY HOURS

If you're listening to the new bonus episode of the podcast, you'll have heard me (Paul) telling Morgan and Stephen all about the cover of their Pan editions of The Empty Hours, the collection of three novelettes by Ed McBain from 1962. The cover is clearly intended to represent a street in Isola during "The Empty Hours" - that time when the street lights are still on, but morning has begun - no-one's around and the cops of the 87th Precinct are about to end their night-shift. 

Of course the 87th Precinct exists in the fictional area of Isola, but New York is always used in the various photographic covers and this particular edition gave away a clue to where it was taken. Surely "Ted Steel - Garment Racks" can't still be there, forty years after the picture (by Colin Thomas) was taken? Well it is! And that was the clue that the cover was taken with the photographer stood at about 365 W36th Street in the Garment District of Manhattan!

The buildings for the most part look the same now as they did in the '70s/80s (the picture I selected from Google Maps was taken in Jun 2014 - the picture on the timeline slider with the fewest vehicles in it), although the tall street lighting has gone now and there's obviously been some cosmetic changes to some buildings, but it's still a fair match!

Anyway, I wanted to share that because [a] if I find it interesting, someone else might and [b] I want you to understand quite how much nerdy research goes into these shows!

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Ed McBain's The Empty Hours - Episode 15, Bonus: Crime Prevention Knees

Hark! It's an 87th Precinct Podcast Bonus Episode!
Paul's research into the different first editions of Ed McBain's 1962 collection of "novelettes", The Empty Hours, leads the team into some very silly places indeed. Prepare yourself for an entirely indulgent (and slightly tipsy) bout of INVENT A BOOK TITLE. Stevo is a natural.
Also, we see how nerdy Paul can get in his cover-image research and we become obsessed with Crime Causing/Crime Preventing knees.
Apologies for the sound issues with this (and the main podcast) - we seemed to be having some mic issues as a consequence (probably) of rushing to set up.
Join us soon for the next 'full' novel in the 87th Precinct series, Like Love. Please rate, review, share and get-in touch with us to help us spread the word about McBain and his wonderful books. Fare thee well.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

The Empty Hours - Original Publications

As we suggested in the new podcast (here), The Empty Hours, as a collection of 'novelettes' was probably released as a way of getting out a new 87th Precinct book whilst Evan Hunter was away from home working intensely on the script to The Birds with Alfred Hitchcock, in California. 

The stories came from a couple of different sources, as outlined below:

The Empty Hours
Ed McBain's Mystery Book #1 - (October?) 1960

Click the image for the magazine contents

The New Golden Argosy Vol.352 #5 - May 1961
Illustrations by Sandy Kossin

Storm - originally Murder On Ice
The New Golden Argosy Vol.353 #5 November 1961
Illustrations by Lou Feck

Ed McBain's The Empty Hours - Episode 15: Carry On Candelabra

Hark! It's an 87th Precinct Podcast!

Join us on our journey to find out what happens during "The Empty Hours" - McBain's collection of three novellas released in one volume from 1962. Carella takes on a paper-chase in the title story, whilst Meyer questions his place in the world in 'J' and Hawes goes out of town looking for loving and finding murder instead in Storm. Our research throws up some trivia about the original publication times and places for the stories, as well as info about forensic methods and a sobering look at the sort of idiots spreading race-hate then and now. 

Of course we also talk a lot of the usual rubbish too! We have a look at what was going on in the early part of 1962 in Music, film, World Events and Crisps. Paul reveals a Doctor Who link to Ed McBain and Stevo contemplates undermining the podcast by reading ahead and backwards. 

Join us next time for a return to the full novel format for the book from later in 1962, "Like Love". As ever, a review, rating or share on any of the platforms (but especially Apple and Stitcher!) is massively appreciated and helpful. Fare thee well. 

Friday, 25 May 2018

Richard Marsten's "Murder In The Navy" / Ed McBain's "Death Of A Nurse"

[Imagine the noise of that whistle that pipes people on deck happening here, as a greeting!]

No side-pod for this, but I (Paul) have just finished reading Ed McBain's "Death of a Nurse", originally published as a Richard Marsten novel called "Murder In The Navy" (1955) - the latter title being a more accurate one for the actual content of the book, but "Death Of A Nurse" seems to have been adopted as a more suitably 'pulpy' title which, given the content of the book, is fair enough.

That said, the original release by Fawcett Publishers in their Gold Medal Books imprint, a pretty-damn-pulp-fiction publisher, has a cracking painted rendition of a Naval rating attempting to dispose of the body of his murder victim onboard ship. Even better, the recommendation plastered across the cover is from none other than the "author of THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE" - yes, Evan Hunter himself, suggesting that his pseudonymous alter-ego has created a novel of "Superb Suspense!".

My edition was the 1980 Penguin Crime Fiction version, with the shiny Ed McBain graphic on the front that some of the 87th Precinct were (re)published in. The shattered thermometer on the front doesn't give anything of the story away, but by 1980 McBain's name is the main sales-pitch, so the image is almost secondary to that.

As to the tale itself - it's clearly Hunter writing in a proto-McBain voice. It's closer in tone to the 87th Precinct novels than it is to the Blackboard Jungle or A Matter Of Conviction and it is, once you strip away the specifics of the setting, a good mystery story with a pulpy romance woven through it. McBain/Marsten does a good job of stringing the reader along by quickly narrowing down the murder suspects down to two potential perpetrators, then following them in the story, but always concealing their name (in the hospital they always refer to the patients by bed-number, rather than name, for example), so we're left guessing in much the same way as our hero, Chuck Masters, who is following the case despite being told to leave it alone by the top brass. 

The trappings of life on board ship, at the naval training base in Norfolk, Virginia are all, despite the pre-book protestation that the locations and settings are not drawn as totally true-to-life, based on Evan's own navy experience in quite some detail (the ship isn't real and the layout of the bases etc., is fictionalised - a forerunner of the 87th Precinct "The city in these pages is imaginary..."). Hunter joined the Navy in 1944 (still under his birth name of Salvatore A Lombino) and served aboard the USS Hanson, which was commissioned in the docks at Norfolk, VA and, like the ship in the book, was selected to be converted to a radar picket ship. Much of the story revolves around the radar room and crew on board the vessel. Hunter himself served as a Radarman on the Hanson and so this is drawn from first hand experience. It's probably also worth noting that the inclusion of nurses on board and around the shipyards is perhaps a reflection of the time Hunter spent in hospital during his service, which happened at least a couple of times. 

The USS Hanson in 1966

The story ends with a properly pulpy resolution - a race against the clock, the increasing threat of violence, the damsel in (self-created) distress and our hero, sensitive and determined - but powerful - saving the day. It's a pretty good read for the scholar of McBain - seeing the development of the voice that comes to fruition in the 87th Precinct series - and it's a good example of the type of pulp output that helped to make or establish some authors in the 1950s. Look it up - it's available now in a new edition published by Otto Penzler's Mysterious Press, still listed as an Ed McBain ("writing as...") story, but now back to the original title of Murder In The Navy.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Side-Pod - The Young Savages: A Glistening Pompadour

Hark! It's an 87th Precinct Podcast Sidepod

The team takes in the John Frankenheimer directed film "The Young Savages" from 1961. The film was based on Evan Hunter's "A Matter Of Conviction" from 1959 and is the tale of Hank Bell (Burt Lancaster) and his quest for the truth in preparation for his prosecution of three Italian street-gang members accused of the First-Degree murder of a Puerto Rican boy. When placed alongside the 87th Precinct book "See Them Die" of 1960, it seems streets gangs were much on Hunter's mind.

As we go along we hear some great jazz-slang, Paul's Bin Mystery, Stephen's very best Audiobook voice and discuss another link to the world of Columbo!

Join us soon as we slide back out of the 'real' New York back to the parallel-world of Isola and the 87th Precinct for the next book in the series, "The Empty Hours". Fare thee well. 

Thursday, 10 May 2018

On-Screen Carellas (and Carella substitutes!)

Here, for your delight and wonder, is a selection of the actors who have played our favourite Detective (2nd Grade) from the 87th Precinct, Steve Carella. Remember that Carella is described as:

"[giving] the impression of great power...
a fine-honed muscular power. He wore his brown hair short.
His eyes were brown, with a peculiar downward slant that
gave him a clean-shaved oriental appearance. He had wide
shoulders and narrow hips." (Cop Hater, 1956)

It's clear that McBain had a vision for his leading-man and, as with the other cops in the squad, his description is oft-repeated through the years. One of the questions that crops up a lot when discussing the 87th Precinct is "Who would you cast to play....?" - so here are some of the answers given by various producers and casting directors over the years.

click to enlarge

Not all of these actors played an exact Steve Carella, though - Tatsuya Nakadai plays Chief Detective Tokura in Kurosawa's High & Low (1963). His character is the closest the film has to Carella, but also combines aspects of Lt. Pete Byrnes. Also, Vinod Khanna, is based on the character in High and Low, rather than Carella in the book King's Ransom, but he's our only Bollywood Cop (Chief Inspector Gill), so he counts!

There are (probably) some missing Carellas. Some of the Japanese TV productions are hard to trace and sites such as IMDB rarely have character names and when they do they're often renamed to make them realistic for the setting. Without seeing these films and TV plays, it's hard to tell who is who. 

Another interesting point is that Robert Loggia, in the 1958 film version of Cop Hater, is playing a character called "Carelli" - quite why the name is changed by one vowel it's hard to tell, although I suspect that Carelli sounds even more Italian than Carella, thus reinforcing the character's ethnic background. 

Let us know who's your favourite out of the image above and if you've any suggestions who you'd like to see (or have seen) in the role.