Title: The Felony Squad
Author: Michael Avallone
Format: Paperback edition, Popular Library
I am a sucker for TV tie-in detective/police novels. In some cases, it’s a guilty pleasure as the quality of such books, done largely to capitalize on the success or the hopeful success of a tv property, varies dramatically. But yeah, if You want to get my attention, dangle a tie-in novel in front of me, either an adaptation of an episode or an original. Either way, i’m liable to bite.
‘The Felony Squad’ is a novel based on the television show of the same name that ran on ABC from 1966 to 1969 for 73 episodes. Michael Avallone, the author, made quite a name for himself as a prolific author of TV tie-ins. From the obscure, which this show would probably qualify as, to the well known shows, like Hawaii Five-O, Avallone was the go to man for decades to turn film properties into paperback tales. So, those hits and misses for TV tie-ins were often hits and misses for Avallone.
‘The Felony Squad’ sort of hits midway between hit and miss.
A cop killer is on the loose in the city that Sergeant Sam Stone and his partner Jim Briggs protect as a part of The Felony Squad. But this is not just any killer. Fascinated by western movies, this murderer targets cops in ‘high noon’ showdown quickdraw contests and wears not only a cowboy get up, but also a two gun western rig. The story follows from the first kill to the last, interchanging between the murderer’s viewpoint and the process by which The Felony Squad works desperately to find out who is targeting badges before another uniformed officer dies.
‘The Felony Squad’ is a book that seems trying too hard to be too many different things. It wants to be a police procedural, and does a decent job at that. It also strives to be a thriller and succeeds at that for the first half, but doesn’t maintain the pace necessary from halfway through the book to the end to build the right amount of tension all the way through. It even tries to be a character study, laying open both the killer and Same Stone to investigation and introspection.
The latter point is probably the weakest aspect of ‘The Felony Squad’. Avallone does a great job of setting up the police procedural aspect, then undermines it by trying to get into the psychology that drives Sam Stone to do what he does. This is then set aside the development of the killer character in such a way that is distracting and awkward. One character is handled methodically, almost clinically, the other smacks more of a rougher, more traditional portrayal of a crime fighter, making Sam Stone out more tough guy than the policeman set up to stop this murderer. This makes ‘The Felony Squad’ inconsistent.
‘The Felony Squad’ rates three out of five pages. It’s a fun read, has the nostalgic pull of being a TV tie-in, but it is incredibly uneven and won’t appeal to all readers.
This tv tie-in is an average book for me, getting three out of six bullets. It has a great beginning and end and all the pieces for a thriller/police procedural are definitely there, but they’re just not handled consistently.