Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Guns by Ed McBain

Guns by Ed McBain
Random House, Copyright 1976

Someone reminded me that it's been over three years since Ed McBain passed away, I was all set to argue with him that "no he died last year," but I guess time does fly. "Guns" is a novel that I always was planning to read, but never did. I just finished it and McBain slams you in the face with this one.

"The side of Colley's face is throbbing where the shotgun stock collided with his cheekbone. The Smith & Wesson has been taken from his side pocket, he is aware at once of the absence of its bulk. He feels suddenly naked."

It's a 24 hour story of small-time robber Colley Donato. He and a couple of his pals rob a NYC liquor store and two cops are waiting. Colley blows the back of the head off of one of them and he's on the run from then on. As he is moving between apartments and meeting past acquaintances, we get an insight into Colley's mindset and how he became what he is. Brought up on the mean-streets of NYC, at twenty-nine he developed into an unstable, fearful (almost superstitiously) punk. The cops quickly get an ID on him and a massive city manhunt takes place. Colley allies himself with his partner's wife, but that goes sour. Escaping from NYC, he is left wandering in New Jersey with a constant hunger for a gun and trying to make another score.

This is a street-dirty novel and for 1976 it may have turn a few heads. But I'm sure Ed McBain had to present it that way to capture the vile nature of men like Colley Donato and the filthy streets they rise from. There are no decent guys (or girls) in the novel, just crooks, hookers, pushers, rapists and all of them cop-haters. The title has relevance throughout the novel and McBain latently reminds us of that. "Guns" is damn good, I read it in one setting and never looked at what page I was on. But beware, McBain's going to hit you with a fist.

14 comments:

Scott Parker said...

Of all the old-school authors I need to tackle, McBain is at the top of my list. I have his first 87th Pct. novel, Cop Hater, and I'll be reading it for a Forgotten Books feature soon. Thanks for the review. I've just added another McBain book to my list.

Bruce said...

Can't go wrong with McBain this is one of the his best.

David Cranmer said...

Recently, I watched an Akira Kurosawa film, High and Low based on a McBain book. Ed McBain was so good. I'm always on the look out for more of his books to read. Thanks.

Chris said...

Wow. This sounds intense. I'm going to look for it. Nice review.

Jerry House said...

Didn't McBain tie this book into his next 87th Precinct novel, or am I thinnking of another standalone?.

August West said...

Jerry: you got me there. If that is the case, find the title and let me know-I'll want to read it.
And David: Another bit of info. I didn't know. High and Low I checked IMBD and the novel was ""King's Ransom"-I know I have the paperback somewhere.

I agree with Bruce, this is one of his best.

Thanks all, A.W.

Olman Feelyus said...

Great little review. I read a bunch of the 87th precinct stuff when I was in high school. I enjoyed it at the time, but I think a lot of the subtlety and characterization went over my head. Your review reminds me I need to jump back in again. Thanks!

Chris said...

@august

Well, no luck on my library having Guns. They have tons of other McBain, though. Costs about $15 used on Amazon for the paperback, too. Does this seem right to you? Is it totally out-of-print?

August West said...

Chris: You might want to check abebooks. Here's a link:

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=ed+mcbain&kn=guns&x=16&y=9

Juri said...

The first half of High and Low must be one of the most exciting first halves in the history of cinema. The second half isn't nearly as exciting. But the first hour, man, it kicks ass!

Randy Johnson said...

I haven't read this one, nor any of the Matthew Hope novels, only a few of his non 87th Precinct titles.
Ah, but those, all but ten. Those ten are among the earliest.

Chris said...

@august

Wow. Thanks for that link to AbeBooks. It's kind of way better than Amazon for used books, isn't it? There were several copies for $1.00! Awesome.

Randy Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Randy Johnson said...

Liked this one! Thanks.