Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Ed McBain’s The Heckler (1960) introduces the deaf man.

It is April. Someone heckles Isola business owners, calling them to tell them he will kill them if they don’t vacate their buildings by the last day of the month.

The heckler makes huge orders in their names, even ordering a large dinner party (complete with tables, chairs, and catering) to be held in dress distributor Dave Raskin’s loft.

Meanwhile, some boys playing April Fool’s jokes find a murdered man. The man is naked except for his shoes and socks.

All this ties in because of the deaf man. The deaf man’s approach is to divert attention, to cause havoc. He murders any accomplice who talks too much.

The deaf man even places an ad in the newspapers. The ad refers to Conan Doyle’s “The Red-headed League,” a story Bert Kling happens to have been reading.

The ad makes the detectives focus on a possible bank robbery in the bank below the dress maker’s loft. 

The Heckler ends with chaos and with tragedy for the 87th.

In the end, an unsuspecting beat cop has a run-in with the deaf man.

McBain wrote six novels featuring the deaf man. One of them, Eight Black Horses, is my favorite of all the 87th precinct novels. 

The Heckler sets the deaf man’s modus operandi. He taunts the police. He is cunning, vicious, and intelligent. He diverts attention. He is brutally murderous, not caring how many people he kills. And he is impossible to catch. 

The deaf man is an arch-villan. He is for Steve Carella what Professor Moriarty was for Sherlock Holmes. 

The Heckler is the book that introduces the deaf man.


George said...

Sometimes when I reread these early 87th Precinct novels something will jar me like when a telegram arrives. That reminds me how old this series is: over 50 years!

Joe Barone said...

George, They remind me of how old I am too. The first time I read most of these was when they were first published.