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Review: 'On the Grind,' Cannell's latest crime tale, isn't much for mystery

Stephen J. Cannell is the author of eight novels about Los Angeles police detective Shane Scully, as well as half a dozen other crime novels. But you probably know him best as the creator of such TV series as The Rockford Files and The A-Team. Yes, this is the man who gave the world Mr. T.

As you can see, Cannell's forte is lightweight but entertaining adventure. His gift is for story, with a clear through-line from opening to close, and no troubling ambiguity of plot or character. Nor is there much memorable about his shows except what the actors have brought to them.

This also goes for his novels, if the current On the Grind is any example. In this book Scully goes undercover to purify an L.A. suburb run by crooked cops. They suspect him but let him in anyway, only to beat the snot out of him when they discover he's a rat.

That doesn't stop Scully from mounting up (yes, literally), concussion be damned, and riding to victory, and back to the arms of his beautiful wife (who just happens to be chief of detectives).

In all this Scully betrays nobility but no particular intelligence, leaving one to assume that he was chosen for this perilous assignment because — well, because he's the star of the series. For the same reason, one knows that he will prevail. Besides, he has to live to write this first-person narrative, doesn't he?

Grind has none of the bitter wit or irony that we expect from the masters of hard-boiled crime fiction, whether old (Chandler, Spillane) or new, such as Cannell's fellow Angeleno Michael Connelly, whose blurb on the new book is charmingly vague: ". . . never lets you up for air. Read it!''

I'm okay with that. But Grind will occupy no more than a couple of hours of your time. The question is, do you want to spend $25.95 for so brief a pleasure?

David L. Beck is a writer and editor in St. Petersburg.

On the Grind

By Stephen J. Cannell

St. Martin's Press, 306 pages, $25.95

Meet the author

Stephen J. Cannell will be the featured speaker at the Four Seasons luncheon; see Book Talk.

Review: 'On the Grind,' Cannell's latest crime tale, isn't much for mystery 01/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 24, 2009 3:30am]
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