Ed McBain

“Evan Hunter is Ed McBain”

Evan Hunter (10/15/1926 – 6/6/2005)

Hunter was a man of many pseudonyms. Born Salvatore Lombino, he adopted the name Evan Hunter for personal and professional reasons in his mid-twenties. Other names, Curt Cannon, John Abbott, Richard Marsten, were used when needed to either draw a distinction between the styles of his writing, disguise the truth authorship of the stories and make them more saleable to editors of literary firms who knew him from within the industry (as Lombino, he worked in a literary agency), or to increase the chances of selling them – a trick that worked, with a number of different stories by different ‘authors’ all appearing in the same magazine, and all in reality produced by Lombino’s hand. After using the pseudonym Evan Hunter for a novel, he legally adopted it as his name.

By far his most recognisable pseudonym and the one that often eclipsed his actual name, was that of Ed McBain, author of the 87th Precinct series of police procedural novels. Hunter’s novel, “The Blackboard Jungle” was a best-seller in the mid-Fifties, and the film of it loom larged in the cultural landscape at the time, bringing “Rock around the Clock” into cinemas (and teenage ears) all over the world. When the first 87th Precinct novel appeared in 1956, the tone and subject matter were so distinctly different, that a separate and distinct name for the author was a logical step and the somewhat hard-boiled Ed McBain was born.

Hunter kept writing until his death in 2005, not only carrying on the 87th Precinct series, but introducing the attorney, Matthew Hope as well as other stand-alone stories. He always wrote plays, TV scripts and adaptations and adapted works for the cinema. Most famous of these was The Birds (1963), based on the Daphne du Maurier story, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Hunter also began the screenplay for Marnie the following year, but departed from the project after a disagreement with the director. One of Hunter’s autobiographies, Me and Hitch (1997) outlines their relationship.

There are plenty of resources available on the web, interviews, transcripts, programmes and quotes that you can use to fill in the gaps in Hunter’s life. He himself would often talk about his work, his health, his relationships in the various radio or print interviews he conducted and it is worth seeking these out (see the links page for some of them). He had an enormous impact on the storytelling landscape and, with the 87th Precinct series, created one of the most addictive bodies of work of any author.

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