Over the holiday, I read a couple more of Stephen J. Cannell’s Shane Scully novels, Cold Hit and Three Shirt Deal. It would be pointless, I think, to give either of them full reviews, unless one of them was bad (neither is), since I’m already on record as enjoying the series. So I’ll just post some thoughts, thought while reading.
1. Does the Los Angeles police department really allow an officer to be their spouse’s immediate superior? If they do, I think they’re nuts.
2. At one point in Cold Hit, Scully as narrator talks about the integration of female officers into the force. I thought the passage was interesting, because he listed good arguments the old guard used against deploying smaller, weaker female patrol officers. He largely answered them, not with a strong counter-argument, but by saying “It’s done, there’s nothing you can do about it.” I find that suggestive (in the inviting-of-thought sense). Probably it’s just me.
3. In spite of his theoretical advocacy of a co-ed police force, Cannell makes heavy use of the inherent pressures, interpersonal and job-related, that come from men serving alongside women in dangerous situations. One could, if one wished, read the whole series as a subtle argument against female recruitment. Again, that’s probably just me.
4. When I first picked up a Cannell novel, I didn’t expect much in the way of character development. Cannell is a television writer/producer, and that medium isn’t famous for the depth of its psychological insight (though The Rockford Files, one of Cannell’s shows, featured some of the best character writing ever done in the medium). I was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps as a relief from the constraints of the one-hour series, Cannell goes very deeply into the psyches of his characters. Indeed, in Cold Hit, he probably took it a little too far at one point, having a certain character make a personal disclosure worthy of Oprah’s show, in the middle of a gun fight. But that’s a rare misstep.
5. One drawback of the series format is that it’s hard to allow the heroes to change as much as classic story structure demands. Cannell has done a wonderful job of solving that problem by making surprising changes in his hero’s relationships, especially in Three Shirt Deal. What does Scully do when his wife/superior officer, previously the prudent one in the relationship, now becomes the crazy risk-taker, and he has to act like the grownup? The results are amusing.