87th Precinct

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87th Precinct series
AuthorEd McBain
CountryUnited States
Genrepolice procedural
PublisherOriginal US editions:
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
No. of books55

The 87th Precinct is a series of police procedural novels and stories written by Ed McBain (pseudonym of Evan Hunter). McBain's 87th Precinct works have been adapted, sometimes loosely, into movies and television on several occasions.


The series is based on the work of the police detective squad of the 87th Precinct in the central district of Isola, a large fictional city based on New York City. Isola is both the name of the entire city and of the central district of the city (it fulfills the role of the borough of Manhattan within New York City). Other districts in McBain's fictionalized version of Manhattan broadly correspond to NYC's other four boroughs, Calm's Point standing in for Brooklyn, Majesta representing Queens, Riverhead substituting for the Bronx, and Bethtown for Staten Island.

Relation to Dragnet[edit]

Each novel begins with the same disclaimer:

"The city in these pages is imaginary. The people, the places are all fictitious. Only the police routine is based on established investigatory technique."

In interviews and articles, McBain has freely admitted that his series was heavily influenced by the radio and TV series Dragnet. This introduction, simultaneously evoking and contradicting Dragnet's introductory phrase, "The story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent," was apparently McBain's way of acknowledging the debt, yet announcing his intention to go his own way in every book.


The series focuses on the detectives of the 87th Precinct, and although different detectives "star" in different novels, most 87th Precinct novels feature a significant role for McBain's leading character, Detective 2nd Grade Stephen Louis "Steve" Carella.

The regular, re-occurring characters of the 87th Precinct novels are:

Detectives of the 87th[edit]

  • Steve Carella - Honest, dogged and persistent; intelligent but no genius; usually able to piece together a case through hard work. At the conclusion of the first novel, Carella marries Theodora "Teddy" Franklin and over the course of the series raises a family. During investigations, Carella is most often partnered with Meyer, Hawes, or Kling, all of whom he gets on well with.
  • Meyer Meyer - Bald, perpetually 37 years old, friendly but cynical Jewish cop. His unusual name was given to him by his father as a joke (in retaliation for the ultimate joke played on him, since Meyer was born after Mrs. Meyer had gone through menopause). As a consequence of all the childhood teasing he endured, Meyer now has almost endless patience. It is also conjectured that Meyer's total baldness is a subconscious reaction to the stress. His wife's name is Sarah (née Lipkin).
  • Bert Kling - Young and impulsive, starts off as a patrolman but is promoted to detective at the end of the second novel and becomes generally solid detective. Goes through numerous romantic entanglements and married once, all of which ultimately end disastrously.
  • Cotton Hawes - A slightly later addition to the cast. Hawes is tall, good-looking, and red-haired, with a white streak in his hair. This was caused when his head was slashed by a building superintendent—the hair, after being shaved to stitch up the wound, grew back white. Originally from a "posh" uptown precinct, his attitude did not endear him to his new colleagues at the 87th on his first few days there and nearly got both himself and Carella blown away. Chastened and sobered by the experience, he finally settled in as part of the 87th's Detective Squad, and became extremely competent at his job. Women find him attractive.
  • Arthur Brown - Hip, popular and well-liked by his colleagues, though occasionally rather introspective and moody, Brown is the squad's only black detective.
  • Hal Willis - The 87th's shortest detective, he became a police officer just before an official height requirement was instituted; however, his skill at judo makes up for his lack of height.
  • Eileen Burke - Eileen is originally introduced as an undercover detective who works with the precinct on special assignments, including rape decoy. In the final novels, she joins the squad proper, becoming their only female detective, and becomes romantically involved with Kling for a time.
  • Roger Havilland - An effective detective but self-centered, corrupt and generally a nasty, brutal piece of work; eventually killed by broken glass, after being pushed through a window.
  • Andy Parker - Lazy, boorish, no longer interested in his work and almost certainly corrupt. Parker succeeds Havilland as the most disliked member of the squad. Once married to a stripper/prostitute whom Parker unsuccessfully tried to reform, Parker's character and police conduct changed after his wife abandoned him. He never speaks of her and it is uncertain if any of the other detectives even know of this.
  • Bob O'Brien - A nice guy and a good cop. Unfortunately, O'Brien has been forced to use his gun on numerous calls in his career and consequently, he is regarded as a jinx by most of the squad.
  • Richard Genero - Originally a patrolman stationed at the 87th, keen and hard-working but not especially bright, Genero has been over-promoted and is clearly in over his head. When he solves a case (including the one that got him promoted), it is generally through coincidence and luck. He is generally disliked by the other detectives, who never refer to him by his first name.
  • "Tack" Fujiwara - The squad's only Japanese-American detective.

A number of other detectives are mentioned or have smaller roles. In the first novel in the series, Cop Hater, Carella is partnered with a detective called Bush. Bush's wife has hired someone to murder Bush, as well as two other officers who are not mentioned in the other novels.

Some of McBain's cop's names, including Meyer Meyer, Bert Kling and Roger Havilland, are seen in a duty roster posted on a squad room wall in the original 1962 film version of Cape Fear. At the point the film was made, over a dozen 87th Precinct novels had already been published.

Other regulars at the 87th[edit]

  • Lt. Peter Byrnes - The sometimes curt detective squad commander.
  • Captain John Frick - The vain, self-promoting captain.
  • Alf Miscolo - The clerk in charge of records and coffee. Liked but taken advantage of by everyone.
  • Dave Murchison - The desk sergeant.

Other regular characters[edit]

  • Theodora "Teddy" Carella - Steve Carella's wife, who is both deaf and mute.
  • Detective Oliver Wendell Weeks (a.k.a. "Fat Ollie") - A slob with a lack of personal hygiene, Weeks is uncouth, uncultured, rude and racist. Despite being distinctly difficult to like, Fat Ollie does get results. Tolerated by Carella on the grounds that he has no choice but to work with him, Weeks is a central character in several 87th Precinct novels, even though he is in fact on the squad of the neighboring 88th Precinct. (The 88th often assigns Fat Ollie to work with the 87th on certain cases that cross jurisdictions -- the implication being that the 88th can't stand him either, and assign him cases that will remove him from their immediate orbit.)
  • Monoghan and Monroe - Buffoonish and arrogant homicide detectives, who virtually always appear together. "M&M" theoretically administer any homicide investigations done by the detectives of the 87th, but never seem to do any actual work.
  • Sam Grossman - Crime lab supervisor.
  • Paul Blaney - Medical examiner from the Coroner's Office.
  • Carl Blaney - Paul's twin brother, also a medical examiner from the Coroner's Office.
  • Daniel Nelson, better known as Danny Gimp - A regular police informant, usually reporting to Carella, who sees him more as a person than as just a stoolie.
  • Fats Donner - Another regular informant. Distinctly more distasteful than Danny Gimp, as it is implied that Donner may be a latent paedophile, barely kept in line (and out of jail) by the detectives of the 87th. Has a fondness for taking meetings with detectives in steam baths.
  • Rolly Chabrier and Nellie Brand - Lawyers from the District Attorney's office.
  • The Deaf Man - A Professor Moriarty-like criminal mastermind who appeared in six novels, was mentioned in several others, and whose real name was never revealed. He generally uses aliases that loosely translate into "Deaf Man": "L. Sordo" (Spanish: el sordo), "D.R. Taubmann" (German: der taubman), "Mort Orrechio" (Italian for dead ear), "Den [mistakenly called "Dennis" by one associate] Dove" (Den döve, Swedish – literally the deaf), etc. He enjoyed plotting elaborate crimes to bedevil and confuse the men of the 87th, especially Carella, whom he actually impersonated on one occasion. The Deaf Man's plans usually create chaos and extreme tension, but generally end in failure, often due more to pure chance than to the efforts of the 87th.

Ed McBain on writing an 87th Precinct novel[edit]

"I usually start with a corpse. I then ask myself how the corpse got to be that way and I try to find out—just as the cops would. I plot, loosely, usually a chapter or two ahead, going back to make sure that everything fits—all the clues are in the right places, all the bodies are accounted for...(I) believe strongly in the long arm of coincidence because I know cops well, I know how much it contributes to the solving of real police cases."

The 87th Precinct Mysteries[edit]

  • Cop Hater (1956)
  • The Mugger (1956)
  • The Pusher (1956)
  • The Con Man (1957)
  • Killer's Choice (1957)
  • Killer's Payoff (1958)
  • Lady Killer (1958)
  • Killer's Wedge (1959)
  • 'til Death (1959)
  • King's Ransom (1959)
  • Give the Boys a Great Big Hand (1960)
  • The Heckler (1960)
  • See Them Die (1960)
  • Lady, Lady I Did It (1961)
  • The Empty Hours (1962) - collection of three short novellas
  • Like Love (1962)
  • Ten Plus One (1963)
  • Ax (1964)
  • He Who Hesitates (1964)
  • Doll (1965)
  • 80 Million Eyes (1966)
  • Fuzz (1968)
  • Shotgun (1969)
  • Jigsaw (1970)
  • Hail, Hail the Gang's All Here (1971)
  • Sadie When She Died (1972)
  • Let's Hear It for the Deaf Man (1973)
  • Hail to the Chief (1973)
  • Bread (1974)
  • Blood Relatives (1975)
  • So Long as You Both Shall Live (1976)
  • Long Time No See (1977)
  • Calypso (1979)
  • Ghosts (1980)
  • Heat (1981)
  • Ice (1983)
  • Lightning (1984)
  • Eight Black Horses (1985)
  • Poison (1987)
  • Tricks (1987)
  • Lullaby (1989)
  • Vespers (1990)
  • Widows (1991)
  • Kiss (1992)
  • Mischief (1993)
  • And All Through the House (Novella - 1994)
  • Romance (1995)
  • Nocturne (1997)
  • The Big Bad City (1999)
  • The Last Dance (2000)
  • Money, Money, Money (2001)
  • Fat Ollie's Book (2002)
  • The Frumious Bandersnatch (2003)
  • Hark! (2004)
  • Fiddlers (2005)

Short stories and novellas[edit]

  • And All Through the House (1984), later published as a 40-page novella in 1994
  • Reruns (1987)
  • Merely Hate (2005) a novella in the anthology titled Transgressions, edited by Ed McBain

The following books excerpted chapters from 87th Precinct novels:

  • McBain's Ladies (Short Stories) (1988)
  • McBain's Ladies, Too (Short Stories) (1992)


  • The Jesus Case (1974) - this is actually an excerpt from "Let's Hear It For The Deaf Man"

Other media[edit]

Theatrical films

TV series and TV films


  • 87th Precinct (1962) (Comic Book series)
  • Polishataren (Cop Hater) (1990), a Swedish graphic novel written by Claes Reimerthi and drawn by Martin Sauri
  • The Stand: the Complete & Uncut Edition (1990) by Stephen King has a minor character, "Edward M. Norris, lieutenant of police, detective squad, in the Big Apple's 87th Precinct" (pg 71). Steve Carella is briefly mentioned.
  • The Last Best Hope (1998), a novel in McBain's Matthew Hope series, features Steve Carella as a supporting character.
  • Stephen King novella, "The Mist", one of the major characters is named Ollie Weeks, a detective from the neighboring 88th Precinct.


  • Hark! The 87th Precinct Podcast(2016 - ongoing) [Audio Podcast] A podcast dedicated to a book-by-book exploration of the 87th Precinct series, its adaptations and spin-offs. The podcast also explores some other works by Evan Hunter and has featured interviews with Otto Penzler (writer and proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York)[1] and James Naughtie (British radio presenter and writer)[2].
  • Paperback Warrior (2019) [Audio Podcast] features a segment on Ed McBain's 87th Precinct. The episode delves into the author's bibliography and explores his police procedural series as well as the debut novel Cop Hater. Co-Hosts Tom Simon and Eric Compton both suggest that the 87th Precinct was influenced by the television show Dragnet.[3]


  1. ^ "Interview with Otto Penzler (July 2018)".
  2. ^ "Interview with James Naughtie (November 2018)".
  3. ^ Compton, C.E., Simon, T.J.(Hosts).(2019, November 18).Paperback Warrior Podcast: Ed McBain [Audio podcast]