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RIP Evan Hunter (Ed McBain)

Old 07-11-05, 10:07 AM
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RIP Evan Hunter (Ed McBain)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Novelist Evan Hunter, better known to many readers as the Ed McBain who wrote the 87th Precinct novels, has died of cancer at the age of 78, his agent said on Thursday.

Hunter wrote more than 100 novels, short stories, plays and film scripts during a period of 50 years and under different names, selling more than 100 million books worldwide.

His better known works include the novel "The Blackboard Jungle," about an English teacher and his uncontrollable students, and the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 classic "The Birds."

"He had been ill for some time, he died peacefully," agent Jane Gelfman said, adding that Hunter had suffered from cancer of the larynx. He died on Wednesday at home in Connecticut.

Hunter's first major success was 1954's "The Blackboard Jungle," a semi-autobiographical novel under the name Evan Hunter that was adapted into a movie starring Sidney Poitier.

The author may have been best known for his 87th Precinct series about a police force in a city based on New York. As Ed McBain, he was honored by the Mystery Writers of America with a Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement in 1986.

Born into an Italian-American family on Oct. 15, 1926, he changed his legal name from Salvatore Lombino to Evan Hunter in 1952. He served in the Navy during World War II and attended Hunter College in New York.

He worked as a school teacher, a lobster salesman and a literary agent before his first work was published.

He was married three times and is survived by three sons, a stepdaughter and his wife Dragica.

Gelfman said Hunter had continued working up until his death and his new novel "Fiddlers," the latest in the 87th Precinct series, is due in September. "Learning to Kill," a collection of short stories, is scheduled to come out next spring. He also was working on a memoir about his cancer, according to his official Web site.

The New York Times said in an obituary the McBain novels, with their gritty descriptions of life in the city and the police officers who patrol it, "laid down the formula that would define the urban police novel to this day."

For years the author maintained a strict division between his two main pen names, writing more "serious" literary work as Hunter and gritty mysteries as McBain. More recently the two styles appeared to merge and in 2001 he wrote the novel "Candyland" under a Hunter-McBain joint byline.

In an interview in 2000 reprinted on his Web site, Hunter said he started using pseudonyms early in his career because he was writing so much to earn a living. "Sometimes I had three or four stories in a single magazine without the editor knowing they were all by me," he said.

He also said he changed his name because some American publishers were loathe to publish works by writers with foreign-sounding names.

Among the other names he published under are Hunt Collins, Ezra Hannon, Richard Marsten and John Abbot.

"The hard, blunt prose could not disguise a sophisticated stylist who hated to be pigeonholed as a genre writer," the Times said of the 87th Precinct series.

"I think of myself as a softy," the newspaper quoted Hunter as saying. "I think the 87th Precinct novels are very sentimental and the cops are idealistic guys."
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Old 07-11-05, 11:14 AM
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Really enjoyed his books.
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Old 07-11-05, 12:11 PM
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RIP. By coincidence, I happened to watch The Birds for the first time over the weekend, as well as the documentary on the DVD, and he was there talking about working on the movie, and some of the stuff he wrote that didn't make it to the screen.
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