In Cape October during the rainy season, but May is not the rainy season, you can expect a thunder storm along about 3 or 4 every afternoon… The rain when it comes mercilessly assaults the sidewalk and the streets. . . But the heat and the humidity follow as closely behind the storm as does a rapist his victim. Within minutes, you’re sweating again. This is not the rainy season, this is May, but at 3 o clock that afternoon the rain is coming down in buckets.
A fundamental law of Hemingway holds true for Ed McBain: if it is raining at the beginning of the chapter, there’s going to be sex by the end of the chapter. McBain is edgier, angrier, and New York funny, even when describing South Florida.
Did you ever go to bed with Alice?
This is now 3 o’clock in the morning. Around 3 o’clock in the morning they all ask you to start cataloging all the women you’ve ever slept with.
McBain chronicles telephone conversations, everyday speech, questions, commands, exclamations : between widows and out of town businessmen and redneck cops, truck drivers and sisters in law, white trash and nosy neighbors and nosy reporters, the way a real estate agent shows off a house… or a Cape:
Every discourse as smooth as single malt Scotch on fast ice.
Another New York City nanny? No, no. This one wakes up screaming every morning, unable to stop the dream of a body bag around a not yet dead body. This one is having an affair with the father of the children she is nannying. This one sees cockroaches crawling on her body, and dead fathers watching her from across the street, and transparent bodies in photographs. Because this is New York, this “weirdness” mixes in with all the other weirdnesses in the city and what, after all, are a few hallucinations when you spend your days behind a camera. That’s right, this nanny is also a photographer, who shoots first and thinks later.
So Christian wakes up screaming, every morning, not because of what she sees, but because she cannot do anything about what she sees. The terror, the suspense, come from the inability to act.
The guilt and the hallucinations come from the inability to stop acting.
In his thuggy Italian voice, Ferrone rasps the staggeringly funny stretched-out Goombah logic of an ex con from Mulberry Street as he helps an ex-cop burgle a ritzy old-world Hotel and save Democracy.
The two Italians stumble into the sub counter plot of a fanatic Cuban terrorist-doctor with a bad liver, sent by Castro to destroy capitalist Yankee life in upstate New York. Or maybe not. His mad, running commentary on property and land and personality is a war of principalities, which he loses.
“…he marvelled most at the size of the mens room. As he stood in the center of one of the several long lines of urinals, he wondered: Did Yankees have weak bladders? Could there be a real need to accommodate so many men at one time or was there some terrible overproduction of things like urinals, quietly absorbed by the government?”
And then there are the internal ghettos of Capitalism represented by your friendly neighborhood constitutional criminal, Franky Belmonty, who also has difficulty believing in Property.
“I did one course at the New School for Social Research up on 12th Street. The Urban Deviant as Middle America’s Scapegoat, it was called. Taught by a middle American would faint if he ever came within 3 feet of a serious deviant — even a rural one.”