ED McBAIN – Cop Hater. 87th Precinct #1. Permabook M-4268, paperback original, 1956. Reprint editions include: Signet, paperback, 1973. Pocket, paperback, 1999.

COP HATER. United Artists, 1958. Robert Loggia (Detective Steve Carelli), Gerald O’Loughlin, Ellen Parker, Shirley Ballard, Jerry Orbach. Screenwriter: Henry Kane, based on the novel by Ed McBain. Director: William Berke.

   In his introduction to the Pocket edition, Ed McBain (Evan Hunter) lays out his case that Cop Hater was the first ever ensemble police procedural, in which the focus is not always on the same detective from book to book, that the detectives involved would even not only come and go, but those who stayed would grow as individuals as time went on.

   I have no reason to disagree. There were police procedurals of course before he came along, but none that I know of that follow the pattern he established with the 87th Precinct books. (You can read more about the history of this particular subgenre of crime fiction here.) Nor can you argue against the success of the series. There were 55 in all, the final one being Fiddlers, which came out in 2005, the year Evan Hunter died.

   Cop Hater, as well as all of the other books in the series, takes place in the fictional city of Isola, which for all intents and purposes may as well be New Your City. Again in his introduction McBain explains why he decided to go the Isola route: He thought he was taking up too much of time of the various detective he was in touch with trying to be sure his facts were as correct as possible.

   This, the first book, takes place in the middle of a heat wave, day after day in the 90s, with air conditioned homes and offices at a premium, including the 87th Precinct’s station house. Compounding the problems of the officers who are headquartered there is that they have a series killer on their hands, someone who hates cops and is taking out that hatred the hard way.

   The count is up to three before they get a break in the case as well as in the weather. Most of the work is done by dogged on-the-ground police work, dead ends and false leads included. A great start to an even better series overall. To my mind, anyone who’s a fan of police procedurals can really ought to own as many books in this series as they can.

   As drenched in sweat as the book is, the movie is even more so, when we can see the effects of the heat if not feel it ourselves. I think that this a movie that’s actually helped by not having a big budget to spend on expensive sets — the cheaper they are, the more authentic they seem — or even the money to spend on bigger name actors, which as it turns out, wasn’t needed anyway. All the people in this film are dead=on perfect.

   The movie follows the book almost exactly as well, except for one added scene in which Carelli (Carella in the book) and his girl friend Teddy (who is deaf) go out on a double date with his partner Maguire (Bush in the book) and his wife. I’m not sure why this was included. I may have misinterpreted the scriptwriter’s intention, but to me it made the ending feel tacked on, rather than coming as a logical conclusion, as it does in the book.

   Don’t put a lot of meaning to this. If you enjoy the 87th Precinct books, all I can say is don’t miss this filmed version of the very first one.