1/14/2003 
RALEIGH NEWS OBSERVER ON "OLLIE"  
"A tautly plotted and very funny tour de force!"  
ED MC BAIN GETS HIS GROOVE BACK

by  Rod Cockshutt

   Reading "Fat Ollie's Book," Ed McBain's rollicking new
yarn,  felt a little like Michael Corleone in the final
episode of "The Godfather" saga: Just when I thought I
was out, McBain pulled me back in.

   Wit and grit made McBain one of my favorite writers.
But I was barely able to finish his two previous books,
the slapstick, sub-par "Money Money Money," and "The
Moment She Was Gone," a tedious, melodramatic
psychological thriller McBain published under his real
name, Evan Hunter. I worried that after l00-plus
novels in four decades, maybe the guy had said all he
had to say, and that it was time for me to move on.

   My bad: McBain's 52nd novel set in the 87th Precinct,
"Fat  Ollie's Book" (Simon and Schuster, $ 25, 288
pages), is a tautly plotted and very funny tour de force
featuring a dash of wicked self-parody that will leave
even the most devoted whodunit fans laughing
sheepishly about their favorite genre's conventions and
cliches.

   McBain gives perennial supporting character
Detective Oliver Wendell "Fat Ollie" Weeks a featured
role in this complicated tale about political
assassination, racial tension and internecine police turf
battles.

   The setting, of course, is the Manhattan-like city Isola.
When the front-running mayoral candidate is murdered
during a campaign rally at the Martin Luther King
Memorial, the buffoonish Fat Ollie, who describes
himself frequently as "an equal opportunity bigot,"
catches the case.

   Problem is, Ollie's got troubles of his own. Someone
has stolen from his cruiser the first 36 pages of an
"insider" police novel Ollie is writing starring one
Detective "Olivia Wesley Watts." Because of that
distraction, Fat Ollie, never the most assiduous of
policemen, calls in some favors and asks series
regulars Steve Carella and Bert Kling to "help" him with
the murder case. As in "solve it."

   Which detectives Carella and Kling set out to do,
jumping adroitly through many of the patented police
procedural hoops McBain has made the hallmark of
this popular series. This time, you'll learn fascinating
bits of cop arcana on such topics as crime scene
diagrams and firearms typology.

   But the overriding pleasure in this genuine
page-turner comes from Fat Ollie's hunt for his stolen
manuscript; the screwball machinations of the
lamebrained transvestite who stole the pages
and believes the missing diamonds described in the
manuscript are real; and the evolving romantic feelings
the racist, misogynistic Fat Ollie begins to have for his
spunky new partner, Officer Patricia Gomez. The most
fun of all is in reading the "excerpts" from Ollie's
masterpiece-in-progress that McBain self-mockingly
weaves into his own novel.

   I'll count to 87 before I start hanging crape for this
series or its indefatigable creator again.
 

 
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