87th Precinct

Created by Ed McBain (pseud. of Evan Hunter, né Salvatore Lombino; 1926-2005)

Long before Barney Miller, long before Hill Street Blues, Homicide, and NYPD Blue, long before Law and Order and CSI This and CSI That, there was Ed McBain's 87th PRECINCT.

The series began in 1956 with Cop Hater, although at the time it wasn't even supposed to be a series. It was a police procedural. Certainly not the first, and certainly not the first of a series. McBain thought of it as just another one-off. His editor disagreed, and had McBain rewrite the ending, so that the "hero," Detective Steve Carella, didn't die. McBain didn't even think Carella was the hero.

So what did McBain know?

The long-running 87th Precinct series came to virtually define the genre. The books generally feature an ensemble cast and multiple plot lines. Although the books vary in quality, on the whole this is a major series, a classic of American crime fiction that entertained, enlightened and influenced the genre for over three decades (and counting!).

The series has even been called "the greatest sustained literary exploration of New York City in American literature," but, of course, the biggest joke is that throughout the entire series, New York isn't New York at all. Instead, we're told that the action takes place in Isola. As the disclaimer in every book reads: "The city in these pages is imaginary; the people and places all fictitious. Only the police routine is based on established investigatory technique."

Yeah, right.

Don't believe 'em. Isola is New York, all right, spun ninety degrees, with only the names changed to protect the guilty. Isola is Manhattan, Calm's Point is Brooklyn, Riverhead is the Bronx, Majesta is Queens and Bethtown is Staten Island.

The only reason McBain didn't actually set the series in the Big Apple is that he didn't want to get bogged down in the minutae of the NYPD's ever-changing rules and procedures.

In the early sixties, a TV series made its debut, featuring Robert Lansing as Det. Steve Carella and Gena Rowlands as Teddy. It also featured Norman Fell, Ron Harper and Gregory Walcott. Although well-received by critics (particularly Rowlands' performance) it didn't last long, although at least two comic books were rushed out, hoping to cash in. But they weren't quickie recycled TV episodes; in fact, they were relatively "adult" for a "good" publisher like Dell. The first was drawn by Bernie Krigstein, who is so well known for his E.C. horror work, and is truly a bizarre visual excursion. The second deals in great detail with drugs, and may be drawn by one of the artists who also did the Michael Shayne books, another short-lived series which Dell decided to take a similar approach to.

Most folks know Ed McBain is, of course, the pseudonym of Evan Hunter. But that's also a pseudonym. He was born Salvatore Lombino in 1926. Besides McBain, he has also written under the pseudonyms Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, Ezra Hannon, Richard Marsten, and John Abbott. Hunter's first book, The Blackboard Jungle, (1954), became the basis for the 50's film classic of the same name. As McBain, he also wrote a series featuring Florida attorney and P.I. wannabe Matthew Hope. In fact, Steve Carella and other members of the 87th play a pivotal part in the final Hope novel, The Last Best Hope. He's created some memorable eyes, too, including Ben Smoke, Curt Cannon and Dudley Sledge. McBain has won numerous awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mystery Writers of America and the CWA's Diamond Dagger Award.


  • Ed McBain allegedly had a final 87th novel, Exit, in the can, to be published only after his death. The last one 87th Precinct novel published was Fiddlers, in 2005, the year of McBain's death, and no other 87th Precinct novel has surfaced.



  • "The Empty Hours" (1960, Ed McBain's Mystery Book #1; also 1962, The Empty Hours)
  • "Storm" (1960; also The Empty Hours)
  • "Murder on Ice" (November 1961, Argosy)
  • "J" (1961, also The Empty Hours)
  • "Eighty Million Eyes" (May 1966, EQMM)
  • "Nightshade" (August 1970, EQMM)
  • "Sadie When She Died" (1972, also Criminal Elements)
  • "And All Through the House" (Playboy; also 1984, Mystery Guild promo item)
  • "Reruns" (January 11-17, 1987, TV Guide)
  • "Merely Hate" (2005, Transgressions)



  • COP HATER...
    (1958, Barbizon/United Artists)
    75 minutes
    Black & White
    Based on the novel by Ed McBain
    Screenplay by Henry Kane
    Directed by William Berke
    Produced by William A. Berke
    Associate producer: Lee Gordon
    Original music by Albert Glasser
    Actually set in Manhattan
    Starring Robert Loggia as DETECTIVE STEVE CARELLI
    Also starring
    Gerald S. O'Loughlin, Shirley Ballard, Russell Hardie, Hal Riddle, William Neff, Gene Miller, Vincent Gardenia and Jerry "Law and Order" Orbach as the gang leader, "Mumzer."

    (1958, Barbizon/United Artists)
    74 minutes
    Black & White
    Based on the novel by Ed McBain
    Screenplay by Henry Kane
    Directed by William Berke
    Produced by William A. Berke
    Associate producer: Lee Gordon
    Original music by Albert Glasser
    Actually set in Manhattan
    Starring Kent Smith, Nan Martin, James Franciscus, Stefan Schnabel, Dick O'Neill, John Alexander, Arthur Storch, Bert Thorn, Albert Dannibal, Dolores Sutton, Beah Richards, George Maharis, Michael Conrad

    (1960, Milford/Carlyle Productions)
    Black & White
    Based on the 87th Precinct novel by Ed McBain
    Screenplay by Harold Robbins
    Directed by Gene Milford
    Produced by Sidney Katz, Gene Milford
    Starring Robert Lansing, Kathy Carlyle, Felice Orlandi, Douglas Rodgers, Sloan Simpson, Sara Amman, Jim Boles, John Astin

    (English title: High and Low)
    AKA Heaven and Hell, The Ransom

    Based on the novel King's Ransom by Ed McBain
    Directed by Akira Kurasawa
    Set in Tokyo
    Starring Toshiro Mifune
    Mifune plays the business executive whose chauffeur's son is kidnapped by mistake. The kidnappers were after Mifune's kid. Now he has to decide whether to pay the ransom for somebody else's son with the money he intended to use to close a critical business deal. It was a lovely moral dilemma in McBain's book, and Kurasawa does a magnificent job with it.

    (aka "Senza movente, Without Apparent Motive")

    (1972, Cinétel/Euro International Film/Président Films)
    100 minutes
    Based on the novel "Ten Plus One" by Ed McBain
    Screenplay by Philippe Labro, Jacques Lanzmann
    Directed by Philippe Labro
    Produced by Jacques-Eric Strauss
    Original Music by Ennio Morricone
    Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant as Stéphane Carella
    Also starring
    Dominique Sanda, Sacha Distel, Carla Gravina, Paul Crauchet, Laura Antonelli, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Stéphane Audran, Gilles Ségal, Pierre Dominique, Erich Segal, Jean-Jacques Delbo, André Falcon
    French/Italian co-production about an investigation into a string of murders comitted in Nice. Jean-Louis Trintignant plays the lead detective "Stéphane Carella."

  • FUZZ.. .Buy this DVD
    (1972, United Artists)
    92 minutes
    Screenplay by Evan Hunter
    Based on the novel by Ed McBain
    Directed by Richard A. Colla
    Produced by Jack Farren
    Starring Burt Reynolds, Jack Weston, Tom Skerritt, Yul Brynner, Raquel Welch, Peter Bonerz, Steve Ihnat, James McEachin, Bert Remsen

  • LES LIENS DU SANG.. .Buy this DVD
    (aka "Blood Relatives")

    (1978, Cinevideo-Filmel/Classic Film Industries)
    100 minutes
    Based on the 87th Precinct novel, Blood Relatives, by Ed McBain
    Screenplay by Sydney Banks, Claude Chabrol
    Directed by Claude Chabrol
    Produced by Denis Héroux, Eugène Lépicier
    Associate producer: Claude Léger
    Executive producers: Michael Klinger, Julian Melzack
    Set in Montréal
    Starring Donald Sutherland as Carella
    Also starring
    Aude Landry, Lisa Langlois, Laurent Malet, Stéphane Audran, Walter Massey, Micheline Lanctôt, Donald Pleasence, David Hemmings, Ian Ireland, Guy Hoffman, Marguerite Lemir, Gregory Giannis, Jan Chamberlain
    Canadian/French production with Donald Sutherland as Carella.


  • 87th PRECINCT....Buy the complete series on DVD
    (1961-62, NBC)
    30 60-minute black and white episodes
    Created by Ed McBain
    A Hubbell Robinson Production with MCA Television
    Starring Robert Lansing as Det. Steve Carella
    Norman Fell as Det. Meyer Meyer
    Ron Harper as Det. Bert Kling
    Gregory Walcott as Det. Roger Havilland
    and Gena Rowlands as Teddy Carella
    Guest Stars:
    Jack Albertson. Beverly Garland, Robert Culp, Dennis Hopper, Jeanette Nolan and Peter Falk
    Lansing reprises role from 1960 theatrical release The Pusher.

  • ED McBAIN'S 87th PRECINCT: LIGHTNING...Buy this video....Buy this DVD
    (1995, NBC)
    Based on the novel by Ed McBain
    Teleplay by Mike Krohn and Daniel Levine
    Directed by Bruce Paltrow
    Associate producer: Joe Del Hierro
    Executive producer: Diana Kerew
    Starring Randy Quaid as Detective Steve Carella
    Alex McArthur as Detective Bert Kling
    Ving Rhames as Detective Artie Brown
    Eddie Jones as Byrnes
    Alan Blumenfeld as Detective Ollie Weeks
    Ron Perkins as Detective Meyer Meyer
    and Steven Flynn as Henry 'Lightning' Lytell
    Also starring
    Johann Carlo, Tracy Middendorf, Mary-Joan Negro, Alison Moir, Steve Park, Deanne Bray, Richard Portnow, Dayton Callie, Christopher Darga, Marquita Terry, Juney Smith
    By most accounts, Quaid, an often great actor, is totally miscast in this one.

  • ED McBAIN'S 87th PRECINCT: ICE... .Buy this DVD
    (February 18, 1996, NBC)
    2 hour made-for-television movie
    Based on the novel by Ed McBain
    Teleplay by Larry Cohen
    Directed by Bradford May
    Associate producer: Erik Storey
    Executive producer: Diana Kerew
    Starring Dale Midkiff as Det. Steve Carella
    Joe Pantoliano as Det. Meyer Meyer
    Paul Johansson as Det. Bert Kling
    Andrea Parker as Det. Eileen Burke
    Judah Katz as Andy Parker
    and Michael Gross as Lt. Byrnes
    Also starring
    Dean McDermott, Andrea Ferrell, Diane Douglass, Lisa LaCroix, Christopher Kennedy, Laura Catalano
    Toronto posing as Isola. This one was about as gritty as a vanilla milkshake. McBain deserves better.

  • ED McBAIN'S 87th PRECINCT: HEATWAVE... .Buy this DVD
    (1997, NBC)
    Based on the novel by Ed McBain
    Teleplay by Larry Cohen
    Directed by Douglas Barr
    Associate producer: Erik Storey
    Executive producer: Diana Kerew
    Starring Dale Midkiff as Det. Steve Carella
    Paul Ben-Victor as Det. Meyer Meyer
    Paul Johansson as Det. Bert Kling
    Erika Eleniak as Det. Eileen Burke
    Andrea Ferrell as Teddy Carella
    and Michael Gross as Lt. Byrnes
    Also starring
    Ron Kuhlman, Marc Gomes, Louise Vallance, Annie Kidder, Ian D. Clark, Lynne Cormack, Julie Stewart , Richard Fitzpatrick, Carolyn Dunn, Nancy Leishman, Victor Ertmanis, Mung-Ling Tsui
    It's still Toronto.


  • 87th PRECINCT
    (1961-62, Dell)
    Based on the novels by Ed McBain
    Artists: Bernie Krigstein
  • (April-June 1962, #1)
  • (July-September, 1962, #2)


  • The Official Ed McBain Web Site
    A much improved web site from the last time I reviewed it. In fact, it's one of the more fun author sites I've seen lately.

Report submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Comic info contributed by Don McGregor. Web links provided by Bluefox808, who frequently finds himself in an Isola state of mind...

Drop a dime. Your comments, suggestions, corrections and contributions are always welcome.
"...and I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk."

Copyright 1998-2019, thrillingdetective.com. All rights reserved. Come visit The (New) Thriilng Detective Web Site.

Web site by The Thrilling Detective Web Guy.