Murders happen every day in the big bad city. They're not such a big deal, you know. Even when the victim is a city councilman as well known as Lester Henderson.
But this is the first time Fat Ollie Weeks of the 88th Precinct has written a novel, ah yes. Called Report to the Commissioner, it follows a cunning detective named Olivia Wesley Watts, who, apart from being female and slim, is rather like Fat Ollie himself. While Ollie's responding to the squeal about the dead councilman, his leather dispatch case is stolen from the back of his car -- and in it, the only copy of his precious manuscript.
Joined by Carella and Kling from the neighboring 87th Precinct, Ollie investigates the homicide with all the exquisite crudeness, insensitivity, and determination for which he is famous. But the theft of his first novel fills Ollie with a renewed passion for old-fashioned detective work.
Following the exploits of one of Ed McBain's most beloved detectives, this lively and complicated novel -- the fifty-second in the award-winning 87th Precinct series -- is perhaps his best book yet.
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Simon & Schuster
January 01, 2003
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Excerpt from Fat Ollie's Book by Ed McBain
Response time -- from the moment someone at the Martin Luther King Memorial Hall dialed 911 to the moment Car 81, in the Eight-Eight's Boy sector rolled up -- was exactly four minutes and twenty-six seconds. Whoever had fired the shots was long gone by then, but a witness outside the Hall had seen someone running from the alleyway on its eastern end and he was eager to tell the police and especially the arriving TV crew all about it.
The witness was very drunk.
In this neighborhood, when you heard shots, you ran. In this neighborhood, if you saw someone running, you knew he wasn't running to catch a bus. This guy wasn't running. Instead, he was struggling to keep his balance, wobbling from one foot to the other. Nine, ten in the morning, whatever the hell it was already, and he could hardly stand up and he stunk like a distillery. He finally sat on one of the garbage cans in the alley. Behind him, rain water from a gutter dripped into a leader and flowed into an open sewer grate.
Slurring his words, the drunk immediately told the responding officers from Car 81 that he was a Vietnam vet, mistakenly believing this would guarantee him a measure of respect. The blues saw only a scabby old black drunk wearing tattered fatigue trousers, an olive-drab tank top, and scuffed black penny loafers without socks. He was having trouble not falling off the garbage can, too. Grabbing for the wall, he told them he'd been about to go into the alley here, yessir, when he saw this guy come bustin out of it...
"Turned left on St. Sab's," he said, "went runnin off uptown."
"Why were you going in the alley " one of the blues asked.
"To look inna garbage cans there."
"For what "
"Bottles," he said. "Takes 'em back for deposit, yessir."
"And you say you saw somebody running out of the alley here " the other blue asked. He was wondering why they were wasting time with this old drunk. They'd responded in swift order, but if they wasted any more time with him, their sergeant would think they'd been laggard. Then again, the TV cameras were rolling.
"Came out the alley like a bat out of shit," the drunk said, much to the dismay of the roving reporter from Channel Four, a pretty blonde wearing a short brown mini and a tan cotton turtleneck sweater. The camera was in tight on the man's face at that moment, and the word "shit" meant they couldn't use the shot unless they bleeped it out. Her program manager didn't like to bleep out too many words because that smacked of censorship instead of fair and balanced reporting. On the other hand, the drunk was great comic relief. The Great Unwashed loved drunks. Put a drunk scene in a movie or a play, the audience still laughed themselves to death. If they only knew how many battered wives Honey had interviewed.
"What'd he look like " the first blue asked, mindful of the TV cameras and trying to sound like an experienced investigator instead of a rookie who'd just begun patrol duty eight months ago.