The man beloved to millions of crime fiction fans under his real name and as Ed McBain passed away yesterday afternoon. He was 78. The cause, as a New York Times obituary written by Marilyn Stasio reports, was cancer of the larynx, which he had battled for several years. He is survived by his wife, Dragica Dmitrijevic, as well as three sons and a step-daughter.
He will be missed by many, many people, including me. Frankly, I'm stunned -- I knew he'd battled cancer for a long period of time, and the single time I met him he spoke with a voice box -- and I can't help thinking that Hunter's passing marks the end of an era. Or at least, the beginning of the end.
This post will change over the course of the next 24 hours, and will stay at the top of the blog until Friday.
UPDATE #1: Bill Crider chimes in:
I can't begin to imagine a world without Evan Hunter in it. I've been reading his books before I even started reading crime fiction, the first one being a Winston SF novel called FIND THE FEATHERED SERPENT when I was just a tyke. I loved that book. A few years later I picked up THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, which I read about the time the movie came out. I thought it was a great novel, and I still have that same copy, though it's been re-read so many times that it's in tatters. I later read many of his "mainstream" books, like STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET, mainly because of the movies made from them. What really got me started on him, though, was the 87th Precinct books that he wrote as Ed McBain. Man, I loved those early books in that series. As anyone who reads my Sheriff Dan Rhodes novels is aware, I work in a tribute to McBain every chance I get. He ever wrote me a letter about it once, which was a huge thrill for me. The news that he's gone hit me hard. I've been reading his novels for more than fifty years, and I guess I just thought he'd always be around.
UPDATE #2: More remembrances over at the Crime Fiction Dossier.
UPDATE #3: Ken Bruen talks about McBain's influence over at the Secret Dead Blog.
UPDATE #4: In what appears to be his final interview before his death, Hunter spoke to the Telegraph in May about LET'S TALK, his memoir of battling cancer that was published only in the UK (by Orion.) It was poignant when first published, but is all the more so now.
UPDATE #5: How fitting that it's the 50th anniversary of "Rock Around the Clock" -- which shot to fame after being featured in the movie THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, based on the novel that brought Hunter to early prominence.
These were cops who had sizable problems, inhabiting a gritty world that was damn near hopeless, but bristling with life as if to defy the hard breaks. What made the McBain novels work were the telling details tossed so effortlessly throughout the text. A carefully wiped counterpane or a hastily tied garbage bag wouldn't just give you a hint to the crime. It would tell you everything you needed to know about the people.
UPDATE #8: Novelist, editor, and writing guru Sol Stein contributed his thoughts via email:
I published two of Evan's books, which isn't saying much considering his output and the clean text (compared to some other professional fiction writers) he sent in. In lectures to writers I have frequently referred to his mastery of craft and given examples from his writing.
What brought us closer a little over a year ago was my inviting him to join an authors' panel I was arranging in Tarrytown. That's when I learned of his illness. We then had an e-mail interchange about an issue that interested both of us mightily, at what point does one become an unhyphenated American? I incorporated for Evan's' approval the views on that subject he gave one of his characters into a chapter of my recently-completed memoir for his approval. We both lived and worked under names that were not our birth names.