Author Jack Pearl (real name Jacques Bain Pearl, 1923-1992) was a prolific author of movie and television novelizations. From 1962's Ambush Bay to 1967's Garrison's Guerrillas, Paperback Warrior has mostly read and critiqued Pearl's novelizations. I recently acquired an original paperback penned by Pearl, a novel titled The Cops published by Pinnacle in 1972. I wanted to see how the author crafted his own stories free of any Hollywood commitments and restraints.
First and foremost, Pearl's literary voice is quite different with The Cops. The novel is filled with racial slurs, graphic sex, profanity and more mature subject matter in comparison to the author’s comical, lighthearted novelization of the film Funny Girl (1968). Perhaps a product of the racy 1970s, The Cops focuses on the emotional turmoil of an Irish family's commitment to wearing a police badge on the violent New York City streets.
The paperback’s main character is Tony Gargan, the youngest in a long dynasty of cops. His father retired as a desk sergeant for NYPD’s Western district while his older brother Sean works as a detective sergeant on the vice squad. The author also introduces the notion that an array of uncles and cousins were constables in a long lineage of law enforcement stretching back to Ireland. However, Tony is brand new to the badge and at the book's opening, is working the beat responding to routine burglary and assault dispatches. Within the book's opening chapters, Tony is promoted to prostitution stings, a short stint with vice and a run through the violent African-American ghettos and projects.
The Cops isn't an action novel like Supercop Joe Blaze, nor is it a procedural detective story like Ed McBain's critically-acclaimed 87th Precinct series. Surprisingly, Pearl's story performs more as a crime-drama with snippets of action – a suicide jumper, an apartment fire, fighting a rapist. The bulk of the narrative is spent on the uneven, strained relationship between Tony and his brother Sean. Once Tony gains some experience in vice, he begins to suspect Tony's involvement in the mob's gambling, drug and prostitution rings. While Tony is learning the ropes, it's Sean who explains that catching the notorious criminals involves rubbing shoulders with Syndicate underlings. It's up to Tony, and the reader, to determine the validity of that statement. Pearl also introduces a pleasurable romance angle with Tony and a prostitute named Alice, a fling that will eventually play a bigger role as the book reaches its narrative climax .
Overall, The Cops was an enjoyable reading experience and provided some insight on the law enforcement vocation. The family dynamics and the strained relationships made for a teetering, balance beam approach that I found entertaining – good cop, bad cop and the wives back home. If you want a balls out, furious police thriller, The Cops isn't it. If you are looking for a more measured, emotional experience with a fictional police force, Jack Pearl has delivered the goods. I found The Cops to be an entertaining, alternate approach to police storytelling and for that very reason I highly recommend it.
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