Notes from around the Human Experience…
CAPSULE BOOK REVIEW: Fat Ollie’s Book By Ed McBain: While we can usually remember how we were introduced to one of our favorite authors, in Ed McBain’s case we are at a complete loss. We know we’ve been 87th precinct fans since an awfully long time and we may well have picked up our first Ed McBain book in the library at Los Angeles Lutheran High School, but we can’t really remember.
Oh Jesus H: For example, Gore Vidal’s Lincoln was on my parent’s book shelf. Nero Wolfe was an old TV series on NBC that Dad and I enjoyed watching together and he told me about the Rex Stout novels. My mother sent up a Louis L’Amour book with her sister when she came to visit years ago.
You Can’t Tell The Characters Without A Scorecard: Ed McBain wrote 87th precinct novels from 1956 right up until his death in 2005. Like Nero Wolfe novels, the characters – Steve Carella, Myer Myer, Bert Kling, the Deaf Man, et al, – don’t age, though the novels to keep up with the times.
Fat Ollie is Oliver Wendell Weeks, a detective from the neighboring 88th precinct. Fat Ollie appears in 87th precinct stories from time to time and not only is he fat, he is an obnoxious racist. This is the only McBain novel where Fat Ollie, as he is invariably known, is the main character.
Dry, Technical Matter: For the uninitiated, the 87th and 88th precincts are in a fictional city called Isola which even the most casual observer can tell is based on New York City.
Shorthand Me: The story concerns a city councilman who is shot dead while preparing for a rally. The murder happens in the eight-eight and Fat Ollie catches the squeal, to steal a phrase all McBain fans will recognize. Though Fat Ollie might not be anyone’s first choice to hang out with, he is a good detective and while Carella and company assist with their usual competent work, it is a bit of brilliance on the part of Fat Ollie that cracks the case.
If you are the type who tries to solve the case before the detectives, you probably figured out who the murderer was. McBain offers a couple-three decent suspects, but even casual readers are not left scratching their heads at the end of an 87th precinct novel.
This is par for the McBain course. Looking at them strictly on the quality of the mystery to be solved, McBain ranks higher than Robert B Parker’s Spenser, but below Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, which are sometimes harder to crack than a German war code.
Final Ranking: Good: Fat Ollie’s Book is not McBain’s best, but is good and, as always, it was a treat to visit the gang at the old eight-seven again and it was nice to see Fat Ollie do well in his own story.
ON THIS DATE! ON THIS DATE! Rome catches fire on this date in 64 AD. Ten of Rome’s 14 districts sustained at least some damage and three were completely destroyed and the fire burns for almost a week before it is completely doused.
The Emperor Giveth, The Emperor Taketh Away: History is not entirely clear on who or what caused the fire. A number of theories implicate Emperor Nero, though some credit Nero with spearheading the effort to put the fire out. Nero being Nero, he may have done both. For his part, Nero blamed the Christians, which led to the empire’s first persecution of the them.
More Great Moments In Religious Tolerance: England’s King Edward I bans all 16,000 Jews in England on this date 1290, the culmination of two centuries of increasing Jewish persecution in England. Jews would not be permitted in England again until the 1650’s.
Get Out Your Record Books: Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees becomes baseball’s all-time home run leader on this date in 1921, hitting is 139th career homer of Bert Cole of the Detroit Tigers. Ruth broke Roger Connor’s record, who had set the mark in 1895.
The Post Game Show Is Brought To You By Old Style Beer: The blast came in the 8th inning at Tiger Stadium, then known as Navin Field, as the Yankees beat the Tigers 10-1.
Oh Jesus H: The deadliest mass shooting to date in America occurs on this date in 1984 when James Huberty opens fire at a McDonalds in San Ysidro, killing 21 and injuring 19 others. Armed with an Uzi, a pistol and a shotgun, Huberty’s spree lasted 81 minutes, from around 4pm until a SWAT officer stationed on the roof of a nearby post office shot him in the heart.
After the massacre, Huberty’s family relocated to another part of San Diego County and his children attended school under an assumed name. His wife died in 2005.
Quote Book : It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly. Do not mistake activity for achievement. – Mabel Newcomber
Answer To The Last Trivia Question: Disneyland’s monorail opened in 1959.It still operates today on 2.5 miles of track. A trip around the park takes about ten minutes.
Today’s Stumper: Whose career home run record did Roger Connor break? – Answer next time!
Gaylon was the Colorado Libertarian Party’s nominee for the United States Senate in 2014 and the United States House of Representatives in 2016. All told, he was able to con just under 70,000 to vote for him. He lives in northwest Colorado.