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T.V. COPS FROM THE 1970s
by Gil Brewer, Paul Denver, David Wilson & Max Franklin


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Gil Brewer
It Takes a Thief #3:
Appointment in Cairo
Ace, New York, 1970
(price: 60c; 160 pages)
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Paul Denver
Cannon:
The Golden Bullet
World distributors, Manchester, 1973
(price: 30p; 144 pages)


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David Wilson
McCloud #4:
The Corpse Maker
Award, New York, 1974
(price: 35p; 160 pages)
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Max Franklin
Starsky & Hutch #4:
Bounty Hunter
Ballantine, New York, 1977
(price: 65p; 154 pages)


The blurbs on the backs:

It Takes a Thief
Al Mundy's assignment in Cairo was almost incredible: An ancient Egyptian formula for a deadly nerve gas had been unearthed, and the discoverer, before dying, had hidden the formula inside an ancient statuette. Al Mundy had to find that statuette and recover the formula - before the agents from Russia and Red China could get to it.
But the ancient papyrus led Al Mundy to a very unpleasant surprise...

Cannon
Cannon ... they can't kill him, but they never stop trying.
TV's exciting heavyweight private eye found that out when he agreed to track down the mysteriously vanished Lucille Weiner.
A frame-up, a dead ex-secretary in a Chicago apartment, a high velocity bullet from a roof-top sniper, a macabre murder plot in a flooded New York cellar... all this and more slammed Cannon's way as he winged from coast to coast on his most perilous mission yet.
For what looked like a simple skip-trace hunt presented more angles than a mad jig-saw - and all of them jagged.
It's jet-paced action and dialogue crackling like a sub-machine gun right up to the stun-ning climax in this edge-of-the-chair exploit which you'll read straight through in a single sitting.
Once you start it there's no other way...

McCloud
Each murder was the same - strangulation with a silk scarf. Each victim was the same - a beautiful young woman, employed by an expensive rent-a-girl setup.
McCloud smelled a phoney from the start. The similarities were too carefully arranged. This was a hell of a lot more than a psycho-killer with a twisted hunger for beautiful corpses.
But halfway to the truth Marshal McCloud was suddenly taken off the case. He was coming too close to someone with too much to lose. Someone powerful enough to get a tough New York City cop kicked off the detective beat.
But that someone wasn't counting on McCloud's never-quit stubborn streak. He continued to hunt the killer on his own - pulling the noose tighter around the most expensive sex-and-blackmail scheme the city had ever seen!

Starsky & Hutch
Jail's a lousy place for a honeymoon...
...and Jerry Konig was facing a probable 15 years to life for fooling around with matches and other people's property. So when a shyster lawyer offers Jerry a bail-jump shot at a new life in exchange for some of his skills, he makes the deal. Then love gets in the way. And doublecross. And murder. And soon Starsky and Hutch are on the case - up their holsters in trouble, playing tag with a bonecrunching bounty hunter and a shower of bullets!


opening lines:
It Takes a Thief
The Cairo taxi drew to the curb in busy Al Sheikh Ali Youseff Street. Al Mundy, lean, scowling, opened the door and got out. He felt troubled and unhappy.

Cannon
Cannon ordered clam chowder soup with Alaska King Salmon to follow.

McCloud
Hunched over his desk, Captain Clifford's left hand was strangling the telephone while his right hand threatened to snap in two the ball-point pen with which he was hurriedly scrawling an address, name and phone number.

Starsky & Hutch
The mouth corners of the sergeant on duty at the felony section turned downward sourly when he saw the thin-faced man approaching. The man halted before the desk, gave the sergeant a yellow-toothed smile, and said, 'I'm Arliss Patch.'


American cop shows have always gone through fads and phases much more rapidly than their British equivalents, probably because there's so damn many of them. Consequently, you can't really draw any sociological lessons from their evolution, in the way that's traditionally done here (Dixon of Dock Green through Z-Cars to The Sweeney being the paradigm normally cited).

So here's a random sample - see if it makes any sense to you.

It Takes A Thief was a late-60s variation on the fairly standard theme (Nikita, xXx) of a convicted criminal being offered liberty in exchange for undertaking quasi-official missions that require a high degree of deniability. Starring Robert Wagner - who was trying to find something to keep himself busy between his ground-breaking role as a jazz trumpeter in All The Fine Young Cannibals and his rebirth as self-parodist in Hart to Hart and Austin Powers - it never really made much impact in Britain, mostly because it wasn't really up to very much. Wagner gets the dry one-liners that everyone was doing in those James Bond-obsessed days, and Fred Astaire (bizarrely enough) turned up in the later series as his dad, but there was little to distinguish it from half a dozen other shows featuring would-be playboys of the imperialist world.

McCloud, on the other hand, was a horse of a different colour. Or rather, he rode a horse of a different colour. Cos Sam McCloud was a country cop from the West who arrived in New York and worked in a precinct in the big city, while never quite losing his cowboy ways. A bit like Clint Eastwood in Coogan's Bluff, you mean? Er, yes, exactly like Clint Eastwood in Coogan's Bluff. It was a straight steal. And everything thereafter was entirely predictable, including McCloud's refusal to abide by the rulebook, which brought him into conflict with his superior.

Incidentally, wouldn't it be a joy, just once in a while, to see a cop who did play by the rules? Or alternatively, an office-bound senior officer who happily turned a blind eye to the fact that his subordinates were power-crazed self-important thugs who didn't give a shit about regulation and saw themselves as agents of true justice?

Never mind. Dennis Weaver - who played McCloud - had earlier done eight years in Gunsmoke and deserved a decent break. More significantly, he had just played the lead in Spielberg's brilliant debut Duel. He was a competent enough actor and, whilst McCloud wasn't exactly Columbo, it was mostly harmless.

Sam McCloud came from that celebrated little bit of TV history when every 'tec needed a gimmick: he was a cowboy, Cannon was fat, Ironside was disabled, Kojak had a bald head and a lollipop, Columbo had a scruffy mac and a cigar, Banacek was boring and so on and so on. Then we found that single coppers weren't enough - apparently we needed buddies. And so we got Cagney and Lacey and we got Starsky and Hutch.

Now obviously I wouldn't want to upset a whole host of people for whom Starsky and Hutch was an essential part of childhood, but round my way, we didn't rate them at all. Paul Michael Glaser played Dave Starsky and he wore pullovers that his Gran gave him for Christmas, while David 'Hutch' Soul insisted on releasing records that were really very poor indeed.

Let me be clear about this. 1977 was, as any fule kno, destined to be the Year of Punk, and yet the first #1 of the year - and ultimately the biggest seller - was Soul's 'Don't Give Up On Us', a record so lame that had it been a racehorse it would have been on a one-way journey to the glue factory. Worse than that, it was our fault - we didn't import the man's recording career into Britain; we bloody created it. That song and 'Silver Lady', which followed it to #1, were written by Tony Macauly, and Soul didn't have a hit in America until after his British successes. It was all deeply embarrassing and I'm not about to stoop to a kitsch I Love the 70s type revisionism. Starsky and Hutch were rubbish because David Solberg (as he was born) was the anti-punk.

The books? Oh, they're exactly what you'd expect. They're all competent because the US market had TV novelizations pretty much sorted by this stage, but I can't imagine anyone really wanting to read any of them. If you were to do so, then It Takes A Thief is the best of the bunch.

Stop, thief!
A thief and his minder yesterday...

Note: When I first put this page online, I queried whether Gil Brewer was a single person or a house name - a thought that occurred to me because his name turns up on such a regular basis over a lengthy period of time. I am now advised, however, that he was indeed just the one man. A very prolific man. Max Franklin, it turns out is a pseudonym concealing Richard Deming, who wrote - inter alia - novelizations of Dragnet and The Mod Squad. And finally, David Wilson is believed to be a house name. See the Acknowledgements below.


ARTISTIC MERIT: 2/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
3/5


acknowledgements:
my thanks to Mr David Spencer for additional information on these writers.
You should visit the excellent online magazine AisleSay for writings by Mr Spencer.

Max Franklin also gave us:
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