Evan Hunter (1926–2005) Biography
(Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, Ezra Hannon, Richard Marsten, Ed McBain)
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for SATA sketch: Born October 15, 1926, in New York, NY; died of larynx cancer, July 6, 2005, in Weston, CT. Writer. Hunter was a bestselling novelist famous for his "87th Precinct" series written under the pen name Ed McBain, as well as for such novels as The Blackboard Jungle. Born Salvatore Lombino to a family of Italian immigrants, Hunter later changed his name because he felt there was too much prejudice against Italian writers in America. After serving in the U.S. Navy during the last two years of World War II, he graduated from Hunter College in 1950 and found a job as a New York City high school vocational teacher. It was this experience that he drew on to write his first bestseller, The Blackboard Jungle (1954), under the name Hunter. He had already published five novels before this one, but the gritty story of a teacher struggling to educate tough, streetwise kids hit a chord with readers and was adapted as an acclaimed 1955 film. Hunter would go on to write many novels and short stories with great success, but he broke new ground with the police series "87th Precinct" under his McBain pseudonym. Beginning with 1956's Cop Hater, these books are highly realistic stories about idealistic cops trying to control crime in a decaying urban setting; not only are they considered original for steering away from the classic mystery style of erudite detectives focusing on complex murder mysteries, but they are also unique in that the author combines several parallel storylines featuring various cops in the precinct. Although the attempt to adapt the idea to a television series in the early 1960s failed, some critics, including Hunter, felt that his books inspired the Hill Street Blues television series of the 1980s. In addition to his novels, many of which were adapted to film, Hunter also wrote dozens of movie screenplays, with his most acclaimed being The Birds (1963), a classic horror tale directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The winner of the 1986 Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement from the Mystery Writers of America, as well as other honors such as the Cartier Diamond Dagger award in 1998 from the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain, Hunter spent his career refusing to be pigeonholed into a particular genre. He thought of himself as a serious writer of realistic fiction, and not as an author of police procedurals or mysteries. Though he fell ill in the years before his death, he continued to publish. Among his final projects were a final "87th Precinct" novel titled Fiddlers (2005); a short story collection titled Learning to Kill (2006); and an unfinished collaboration on a musical comedy based on the movie The Night They Raided Minsky's.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Chicago Tribune, July 7, 2005, section 3, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times, July 8, 2005, p. B9.
New York Times, July 7, 2005, p. A24; July 8, 2005, p. A2.
Times (London, England), July 8, 2005, p. 70.
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