December 29, 2008

THE PROCEDURALIST:

Hillary Waugh, Prolific Mystery Author, Dies at 88 (WILLIAM GRIMES, 12/27/08, NY Times)

Mr. Waugh started out writing private-detective mysteries before he tried his hand at writing a novel that focused on the details of an unfolding police investigation. “I was tired of reading about these superdetectives and a police force composed of a bunch of bumbling idiots,” he told an interviewer in 1990. “I wanted to get away from the neat little corpses with the perfect bullet through the head and instead write a story as it really happened.”

“Last Seen Wearing,” his debut effort in this vein, follows a small-town police chief as he inches toward solving the case of a student who disappears from her small college in Massachusetts. Based on an actual case in Bennington, Vt., and on Mr. Waugh’s interviews with detectives, it is regarded as one of the best early police procedurals: a taut, terse, just-the-facts record of crime detection in which no clues are withheld from the reader.

“If a single book had to be chosen to show the possibilities of the police novel which are outside most crime fiction, no better example could be found than ‘Last Seen Wearing,’ ” Julian Symons wrote in “Bloody Murder,” his history of the mystery genre. In 1995 the Mystery Writers of America named it one of the top 100 mystery novels of all time.


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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 29, 2008 9:32 AM
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