Vague ramblings

Moments of perfection

Posted in Ace Writers, Music, That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 2 January, 2008

There are few immutable truths in the arts. Until recently, in fact, I thought there was only one: that pop music reached its moment of perfection, never to be surpassed, when Martha & The Muffins released Echo Beach. There has, of course, been much fine pop music before and since (the entire body of work by Squeeze springs to mind), but nothing has, or will, touch the completeness of Ontario’s finest export. That, to me, was the only truth in the arts.

Then I read Terminal Misunderstanding by the late Evan Hunter (better known to many as Ed McBain) and think I have found another one.

It must drive literary snobs bonkers to realise that crime fiction (of which McBain was a true master), along with science fiction, did more to keep the short story alive as an art form than they did, or could. Yet Terminal Misunderstanding is not a crime story.

It is not, in any specific way, innovative but it is everything a short story should be: tight, focussed and brilliantly hiding its meaning behind a devilishly simple plot. It is, in my considered opinion, perfect; complete. Two people meet, while stranded at Chicago airport by fog. They have a past which is gradually revealed, despite (or thanks to) the attentions of an annoying waiter and a world of….well, that would be telling and the problem with short fiction is that it is hard to summarize without giving the game away.

So I will point you to Running From Legs and Other Stories, by Ed McBain, aka Evan Hunter, which contains this and several other master classes from the outstanding Hunter/ McBain body of work. If you are not familiar with McBain’s 87th Precinct crime sequence, then it is highly recommended – especially the near prescient Money, Money, Money.

Load up Echo Beach on iTunes while you are searching.

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