July 7, 2005 by

Evan Hunter


Categories: Education, Military, Writers/Editors

Evan Hunter, a bestselling author who sold more than 100 million books under his own name and the pseudonym Ed McBain, died on July 6 of cancer of the larynx. He was 78.
Born Salvatore Lombino, the native New Yorker was studying at the Cooper Union Art School when World War II interrupted his education. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy and began to write while serving on a destroyer in the Pacific. Upon his return to the states, Lombino majored in English at Hunter College in New York. In 1952, he legally changed his name to Evan Hunter because he thought publishers would be less likely to accept books from an author with an Italian moniker.
To make ends meet, Hunter taught English classes at inner city high schools, sold lobsters to restaurants and worked as an editor for the Scott Meredith Literary Agency, but he never stopped honing his writing skills. Under the names Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins and Richard Marsten, he wrote dozens of magazine stories. Once he had enough credits to his, well, many names, Hunter published his first novel, “The Blackboard Jungle.” The harrowing tale of big city school violence became a 1955 film starring Glenn Ford and Sidney Poitier. Hunter later penned the second revision of the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock thriller, “The Birds.”
Starting in 1956, Hunter began writing as Ed McBain. Under this pen name, he pioneered the gritty, police procedural genre with his bestselling “87th Precinct” series. Over the course of 55 books (“Cop Hater,” “Jigsaw,” “Widows,” “Mischief,” “Money, Money, Money,” “Hark!”), McBain chronicled the cases of the station’s detective squad. His fast-paced novels were driven by dialogue and his realistic plotlines combined modern investigative techniques with sardonic humor. The final “Precinct” book, “Fiddlers,” will be released in September.
Up until he suffered a heart attack in the 1980s, Hunter wrote for eight hours a day in his Connecticut home. His talent and prolific nature earned him scores of fans and numerous writing awards. Hunter received the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement in 1986, and was the first American to win the Cartier Diamond Dagger from the British Crime Writers’ Association in 1998.
In the essay, “Nature of the Beast,” his alter ego, McBain, made a contract with readers. “I know all the rules of mystery writing and I promise that I will observe them so long as they provide a novel that will keep you fascinated, intrigued and entertained. If they get in the way of that basic need, I’ll either bend the rules or break them, but I will never cheat the reader. Never,” he wrote. The author made several other declarations about his writing, but he ended the essay with a simple guarantee: “I promise to keep you awake all night. I promise to keep writing till the day I die. I will sign this contract in blood if you like.”
Listen to an Interview With Hunter
Listen to a Tribute From NPR

12 Responses to Evan Hunter

  1. Deborah

    When I saw the announcement this morning~ I was thunderstruck. Mr Hunter aka Ed McBain was one of the authors I first read when I started reading “grown-up” books. He was an author I could read and then share the book with my father. Intersting,quick,thorough books. He is the author of the ’87th Precinct’series under the name of Ed McBain. There are 439 books listed under just E Mc B on Amazon!

  2. Jaycatt

    I only now revisited the Blog of Death page, and saw this annoucement. I also grew up with Ed McBain stories, and back in the late 80s read all the 87th Precinct I could find, especially savoring the Deaf Man books. The last few 87th books were really starting to explore the character’s relationships. I was hoping for another Deaf Man book. Sorry to hear that may not be possible (but I’m hoping he was almost finished with one right before he died. I can hope, anyway!) Bless you, Evan Hunter, for turning me on to detective fiction other than private investigators.

  3. Joyce Glendinning

    I cannot begin to say how sad I was to read of Evan Hunter’s death. I had just finished his autobiography which moved me greatly. I always feel good when a new book by Ed Mcbain is published here in England. My thoughts are with his widow who supported him through his illness.
    Joyce Glendinning

  4. jennie lucas

    i learned of evan hunter’s death from a display at the public library. books by the late . . .i still can’t believe it. in the late 90s, i hosted a web site about the 87th precinct. purely amateur – a work of love. i was astounded when mr. hunter contacted me to express his pleasure. we corresponded for a couple of years, then drifted apart. the web site has since been dismantled, don’t know if i can do it anymore. his loss is immeasureable. truly a gifted man.
    may he live on in the hearts of all of us.

  5. Engels jean pierre

    He was the greatest.And He was my friend.
    I admired Him immensially.
    I started reading Ed McBain/Evan Hunter/Curt Cannon/Hunt Collins/Richard Marsten/Ezra Hannon/John Abbott/S.A. Lombino’s in 1967 ‘ntill today and will reread everything starting tomorrow.
    I assume having one of the completest collections: Books, audios, movies, Interviews, Articles, posts,letters, etc.
    Never met ‘The Man’, and regretting it.
    He will be missed.
    May He rest in peace.

  6. randy schechtman

    When I first started reading adult books in the 70’s I caught on to the 87th precinct craze. After that I would read anything Evan Hunter wrote under any name. I had written to the book company for a list of all Ed McBain/Evan Hunter books and somehow the letter was forwarded to Evan Hunter himself. After that, for about a year or so I would write to him — and he would actually write back! It was an honor to have such a busy successful person actually take the time to answer a silly 14 year olds questions.
    Earlier this year, in April, I think, I e-mailed Mr. Hunter to say hello after almost 25 years, and he remembered me.

  7. Barry Eysman

    I’ve just read of Ed McBain’s death. I am heartbroken. I loved him under all his pen names. His 87th Precinct series though–it was cause for celebration when each one appeared. I’ve read them since high school. The first one I read was AX. I was hooked for life. And most especially HAIL TO THE CHIEF. As Evan Hunter, he was the master of the mainstream novel. He could write from any point of view, from any age and any culture. He was so mordently funny. And he could break you in half with a single sentence. He described Isola and the seasons in his 87th Precinct novels so lovingly and perfectly, they became characters. I join with Steve Carella, Myer Myer, Cotton Hawes, Bert Kling and a whole monumental list of unforetable characters (especially Carella, who, I think this time, with me, is the most sad in his eyes and in his heart than he has ever been, in saluting the passing of a master. He will live forever. He knew that guy in New York who wrote the Hitchcock movie, THE BIRDS, you know. Bless him always. I say thanks, much too late.

  8. Barry Eysman

    Barry Eysman
    Ed McBain died last summer. LAST SUMMER was one of his books, written as Evan Hunter. GIVE THE BOYS A GREAT BIG HAND, which I paraphrased for the title of this tribute, was an 87th Precinct novel about the detectives finding this severed great big hand. Steve Carella was played on the TV series EIGHTY SEVENTH PRECINCT by the truly excellent actor, Robert Lansing, who, though he didn

  9. job van de pijpekamp

    “Blackboard Jungle” was my one of the best books I was given by fellow students at 13. I’d just read “knock on any door” so it went right in. I was hooked a little later when I read'”Second ending”, the book never left me completely. I read some more but never any McBain. R.I.P.

  10. BallyG

    I’ve just discovered McBain/Hunter, and can’t get enough. Can anyone tell me why Teddy Carella is deaf? (Why McBain includes a deaf character so matter-of-factly?) Thanx!

  11. itsme8@mac.com

    I’ve just discovered McBain/Hunter, and can’t get enough. Can anyone tell me why Teddy Carella is deaf? (Why McBain includes a deaf character so matter-of-factly?) Thanx!

  12. James Kelley

    I just found out today that Ed Mcbain/Evan Hunter is gone. I was in the process of trying to learn about “Last Summer.” by Evan Hunter. I just found the first edition in the free bin of my local book store.
    I’ve been a fan of the 87th Precinct novels since I was old enough to read.
    Sadly, I’ll stop watching for new ones now..

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