“Dig in and get it done”Evan Hunter, aka Ed McBain
Born Salvatore Albert Lombino on October 15th, 1926, he became better known as Ed McBain, a pseudonym he used in his crime fiction from 1956 on. Among others, he also used the pen names John Abbott, Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, Ezra Hannon, and Richard Marsten, and changed his name legally to Evan Hunter in 1952 after an editor told him his stories would sell better under that name.
He was born and raised in New York City, first living in Harlem before moving to the Bronx. In High School, he won an Art Students League scholarship, then went to study at Cooper Union before serving in the Navy in WWII. He wrote several short stories while stationed on a destroyer, although none were published at that time. After the war, he attended Hunter College, where he majored in English and Psychology and wrote a weekly column in the college newspaper under S.A. Lombino.
After college, he taught very briefly (an experience he used in later works) before joining Scott Meredith Literary Agency as an executive editor in 1951. He also published his first short story that year, “Welcome, Martians!” That story was credited to S. A. Lombino, and soon after he published other stories under the pen names Evan Hunter and Hunt Collins. He sharpened his writing discipline turning out stories for pulp magazines. In 1952 he set the tone for his publishing career with his first books, four of them, in different genres published under different names: two for children, Find the Feathered Serpent published under Evan Hunter, and Rocket to Luna published under Richard Marsten, and two for adults published as Evan Hunter, The Evil Sleep! and The Big Fix.
His novel Blackboard Jungle, published in 1954 as Evan Hunter, was about juvenile crime and the public school system in New York City. It gained popularity and was adapted into a film in 1955.
As he was incredibly prolific, he protected his ‘literary’ name of Evan Hunter by using multiple other names outside of this genre, including Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, and Richard Marsten for his crime fiction. He also published science fiction stories and novels under S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine.
His best-known pseudonym was Ed McBain, which he used to write with popular 87th Precinct crime series. The first book in the series Cop Hater, was published in 1956. Hunter revealed he was McBain in 1958 but continued to use the name. He is credited with highly influencing, if not creating all together, the subgenre of the ‘police procedural.’
Hunter was also a screenwriter, writing for the television show ‘Hitchcock Presents’ before being hired for the screenplay for the classic 1963 film The Birds.
His 2001 novel Candyland brings Evan Hunter and Ed McBain together as authors. The story about a compulsive sex addict accused of murder – written by Hunter – is combined with a police procedural – written by McBain.
In 1986 McBain was awarded the Grand Master Award by the Mystery Writers of American, recognizing lifetime achievement and consistent quality.
Evan Hunter died from cancer on July 6th, 2005, at the age of 78.
After his death, his publisher Otto Penzler/Harcourt released The Fiddlers, the 55th and last of the 87th Precinct novels.
Lesson from McBain:
His literary novels as his chosen name, Evan Hunter, didn’t do as well as he expected, but he still wrote many of them. He wasn’t afraid to branch out and try different things, finding great success and receiving many accolades in the crime genre, even though it was less esteemed. If you’ve got an idea, write it. Then write another. And another.