Friday, May 13, 2011


© 1976 Ed McBain (Evan Hunter)
213 pages

Summer. It's too hot for a job like this. Day like this, anything could go wrong. Doesn't help that this is the thirteenth job Colley has done with this crew.  They don't have any hold-ups about the job though, a raid on a liquor store. Should be an easy mark. So he has to do it. But something'll go wrong. Day like this, it has to. 

"POLICE!" A guy with a shield and a gun, charging toward Colley as he stands watch in the store. He sees the gun and follows his instincts: he shoots. Bang.  The guy drops to the ground. Colley just killed a man. He's a murderer -- a cop-killer, and now  all bets are off.

Guns is the riveting story of Colley Donato, a career hood whose fortunes are reversed when a simple armed robbery goes southward, fast. After the firefight that ensues,  two cops are injured, possibly dead, and Colley's own partner is bleeding out. While he and his third man -- a driver -- get the injured gunman to safety,  their lives are forfeit in the city. Colley has to get out fast, but he's motivated by desperation. Live by the gun, die by the gun -- and he can't seem to shake off the bad luck.  

As Colley runs through the city, he ruminates. The novel is told entirely from his head,  almost in the form of his thoughts -- an approach which has worked well for Michael Shaara and his son.  This tack carries the faint risk of seeming disjointed, but McBain does it grandly. Colley's reflections on the past flow perfectly with his actions in the present, so readers are treated both to the fascinating story of his life as a hood and his thrilling flight from justice -- or revenge, depending on how sympathetic you find Colley and the police.   I stayed up entirely too late trying to finish this novel, and am still suffering from it now,  but it had me. There's a brutal authenticity here, great pacing, and compelling characters. I can't wait to read more of Ed McBain. I understand he has a long-running series of detective stories, so I've a lot to look forward to. 

  • Rumble Fish, S.E. Hinton


  1. You certainly do have a *lot* to look forward to. I have 30 of his books on my shelves and enjoyed them all. They're fast reads too....

  2. Heh, well -- my library only carries about a dozen McBain books. Even so, that should tide me over nicely for the next couple of years...


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