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Encyclopedia > Crime drama

The police procedural is a sub-genre of the mystery story which tries to demonstrate accurately the activities of a police force as they investigate crimes. Detective fiction is a branch of crime fiction that centres upon the investigation of a crime, usually murder, by a detective, either professional or amateur. ...


In a typical police procedural, "frequently the crime itself is secondary to the details of the crime and the techniques employed by the police to solve the crime."[1] It is not uncommon for a perpetrator's identity to be known from the outset in a procedural, whereas in many mysteries, the criminal's identity is concealed until the climax.


It can be difficult to distinguish between a police procedural and other forms of mystery or crime fiction (especially detective novels), and many works blur conventional boundries between genres. The principal distinction is that the police procedural details the activities of an entire squad or group of police officers, whereas a detective novel concentrates on the activities of one private investigator or police officer whose colleagues are, by and large, offstage, or who play minor roles. Another frequent distinction is that the police procedural attempts to depict the work of police officers in solving multiple crimes simultaneously, whereas the detective novel concentrates on one crime. A private investigator, or PI, is a person who undertakes investigations. ...


In a police procedural, the principal crimes are generally solved by the story's end, although minor crimes may remain unsolved. One nearly-universal distinction is that the procedural shows us the personal lives of the investigative team, whereas the detective novel typically does not.

Contents


History

There were earlier precedents, but Lawrence Treat's 1945 novel V for Victim has been cited as perhaps the first "true" police procedural.[2], [3] 1945 (MCMXLV) was a common year starting on Monday (link will take you to calendar). ...


One critic has suggested that Dragnet was "The most famous procedural of all time ... Actor/producer Jack Webb's catchphrase, 'Just the facts, ma'am,' has become a permanent part of the culture."[4] Dragnet opening frame from the 1967 version. ... Jack Webb John Randolph Jack Webb (April 2, 1920 – December 23, 1982) was an American actor, television producer director, and writer who is most famous for his role as Detective Joe Friday in the television series Dragnet. ... A catch phrase is a phrase or expression that is popularized, usually through repeated use, by a real person or fictional character. ...


Jack Webb also authored a non-fiction police procedural of the Los Angeles Police Department called "The Badge" in 1958 (reprinted by Thunder's Mouth Press, New York, 2005). In it he describes the procedures of the LAPD as it attempts to professionalize itself and its image into that of a scientific bureacracy in which crimes are solved by the work of many policemen and not by the genius of one mind, as detective fiction liked to suggest. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is the police department of the City of Los Angeles, California. ...


Written stories

Ed McBain

Perhaps the best example of the police procedural is the work of Ed McBain, the pseudonym of Evan Hunter. Starting in 1956, he wrote dozens of novels in the 87th Precinct series. Hunter continued to write 87th Precinct novels almost until his death in 2005. Although these novels focus primarily on Detective Steve Carella, they encompass the work of many officers working alone and in teams, and Carella is not always present in any individual book. Hunter has used many different narrative approaches over the years, and the 87th Precinct novels are often works of great power, depth, and emotional richness, and often contain moments of terrific (if sometimes gruesome) humour. A pseudonym (Greek: false name) is a fictitious name used by an individual as an alternative to their legal name (whereas an allonym is the name of another actual person assumed by one person, usually historical, in authorship of a work of art; e. ... Evan Hunter, born Salvatore Lombino (October 15, 1926 - July 6, 2005), was a prolific American author and screenwriter. ... The 87th Precinct is a series of novels and stories written by Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter). ...


Dell Shannon

A prolific author of police procedurals, whose work has fallen out of fashion in the years since her death, is Elizabeth Linington writing as "Dell Shannon". Ms. Linington, who wrote under her own name as well as a number of pseudonyms, reserved her Dell Shannon pseudonym primarily for procedurals featuring Detective Luis Mendoza (1960-1986). These novels are often considered severely flawed by the author's far-right political viewpoint (she was a proud member of the John Birch Society), which occasionally works its way into the novels in the form of racism, sexism and extreme homophobia. However, they have a certain naive charm in their depiction of a kinder, gentler California, where the police were always "good guys" who solved all the crimes and respected the citizenry. The John Birch Society (JBS) is an ultra-conservative organization that was founded in 1958 to fight the threat of Communism and other un-American influences in the United States and promote the free-enterprise system. ... An African-American man drinks out of the colored only water fountain at a racially segregated streetcar terminal in the United States in 1939. ... The sign of the headquarters of the National Association Opposed To Woman Suffrage Sexism is commonly considered to be discrimination against people based on their sex rather than their individual merits, but can also refer to any and all differentiations based on sex. ... The term homophobia means an irrational fear of homosexuality or homosexuals. It is derived from the words homosexual and phobia (meaning panic fear in Greek). ...


Georges Simenon

It is hard to say whether the Inspector Maigret novels of Georges Simenon represent procedurals because of their strong focus on the Inspector himself, but the cast of supporting characters frequently includes repeating members of his staff and some would argue that they qualify. Similarly, some critics suggest that the comic strip, Dick Tracy, is actually an early procedural, but this seems unlikely due to the strong focus on the protagonist. This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... This article is about the comic strip, the sequential art form as published in newspapers and on the Internet. ... Dick Tracy USPS stamp Dick Tracy is a popular character in American pop culture. ...


J. D. Robb

Popular novelist Nora Roberts writes gritty, dark futuristic police procedurals under this pseudonym. The ...In Death series stars a tortured heroine in detective Eve Dallas. Nora Roberts (b. ... The …in Death series, written by Nora Roberts under her pseudonym J.D. Robb, features NYPSD Detective Eve Dallas and her husband Roarke and is set in a mid-21st century New York City. ...


Detective novel writers

It is difficult to disentangle the early roots of the procedural from its more common cousin, the detective novel, which features a police officer as protagonist. By and large, the better known novelists such as Ngaio Marsh produced work that falls more squarely into the province of the detective novel. Nevertheless, some of the work of authors less well known today, like Freeman Wills Crofts' novels about Inspector French or some of the work of the prolific team of G.D.H. and Margaret Cole, might be considered as the antecedents of today's police procedural. Ngaio Marsh DBE (b. ... Freeman Wills Crofts (1879-1957) was born in Dublin, Ireland. ... George Douglas Howard Cole (September 25, 1889 - January 14, 1959) was an English journalist and economist, closely associated with the development of Fabianism. ... Dame Margaret Isabel Cole (May 6, 1893 - May 7, 1980) was an English socialist politician. ...


Radio and TV series

Dragnet was a pioneering police procedural. Beginning on radio in 1949 and on television in 1952, Dragnet established the tone of many police dramas in subsequent decades. Dragnet opening frame from the 1967 version. ...


In the 1990s, the police procedural was revitalized as a form by American (and sometimes British) television producers. This trend was perhaps begun by the success of an excellent and high-quality British series featuring Helen Mirren, whose half-dozen episodes in very long format are collectively known as Prime Suspect. Mirren aged 24 in Age of Consent (1969) Dame Helen Mirren (born Ilyena Lydia Mironoff on July 26, 1945) is a British stage, television and movie actress. ... Prime Suspect is a highly-acclaimed Granada Television police procedural television drama series of the decades of the 1990s and 2000s, which has been followed up by several sequels. ...


However, the strong and lasting success of an American series called Law & Order contributed profoundly to the current (2004) spate of such programs. The trend has also cross-pollinated with another sub-genre of the mystery genre, the forensic pathology novel, producing large numbers of police procedurals in which forensic pathology plays a large part: principal among these is the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation franchise and its spin-offs. Law & Order is the longest-running primetime drama currently on American television, and only one other current primetime series, The Simpsons, has been on the air longer. ... CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is a popular Alliance Atlantis/CBS police procedural television series, running since October 2000, about a team of forensic scientists. ...


Comic books

The rise of the police procedural in comic books can partly be attributed to the success of Kurt Busiek's groundbreaking 1994 series Marvels, and his subsequent Astro City work, both of which examine the typical superhero universe from the viewpoint of the common man who witnesses the great dramas from afar, participating in them tangentially at best. A comic book is a magazine or book containing the art form of comics. ... Kurt Busiek (born September 16, 1960) is an American comic book writer. ... Marvels is an acclaimed, four-issue comic book miniseries, written by Kurt Busiek, painted by Alex Ross and edited by Marcus McLaurin, published by Marvel Comics in 1994. ... Cover of Astro City: A Visitors Guide, painted by Alex Ross. ...


In the wake of Busiek's success, many other writers mimicked his approach, with mixed results – the narrative possibilities of someone who does not get involved in drama are limited. In 2000, however, Image Comics published the first issue of Brian Michael Bendis's comic Powers, which followed the lives of homicide detectives as they investigated superhero-related cases. Bendis's success has led both Marvel Comics and DC Comics to begin their own superhero-themed police procedurals (District X and Gotham Central, respectively), which focus on how the job of a police officer is affected by such tropes as secret identities, superhuman abilities, costumes, and the near-constant presence of vigilantes. This article is about the year 2000. ... Image Comics is the third or fourth largest comic book publisher in the United States. ... Brian Michael Bendis (he is also known as BMB and often signs his work with BENDIS!) (born August 18, 1967) is an American comic book writer and erstwhile artist who has won five Eisner Awards as of 2005. ... Ad for Powers Vol. ... It has been suggested that Felicia (pseudonym) be merged into this article or section. ... The current DC Comics logo, adopted in May 2005. ... Cover to District X #5, featuring Bishop and Ismael. ... Gotham Central is a comic book series published by DC Comics, written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka and drawn by Michael Lark. ...


The future

Over the years and into the 21st century, the police procedural has grown and mutated to meet the changing tastes of readers and viewers. In its earliest years, the police were sterling and honourable; lately, the stories have been enlivened by the addition of concepts of moral doubt, and the corruptibility of one or another officer.


Additionally, modern detection methods now provide a considerably wider field for today's novelist or screenwriter to depict interesting and little-known day-to-day activities of the police. It seems reasonable to assume that the police procedural, as a form, will continue to rise and fall in popularity, but never disappear entirely.


  Results from FactBites:
 
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