Ed McBain, who legally changed his name to Evan Hunter in the 1950’s, was born Salvatore A. Lombino, the son of Charles Lombino and Marie Lombino, in New York City on October 15, 1926, and reared during the first dozen years of his life in an Italian slum. He attended Evander Childs High School in the Bronx, where his family had moved in 1938. Following graduation, he went to New York City’s Art Students’ League on scholarship and from there to Cooper Union Art School. Hunter’s own self-estimate, however, was that his artistic talents ranged well below those of his fellow students. He had enjoyed writing for his high school literary magazine, and when he joined the Navy in 1944, he started writing once again. After more than a year of service on a destroyer in the Pacific, he left the Navy and entered Hunter College. In 1950, he was graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree in English. In 1949, he married Anita Melnick, a classmate at Hunter College; they had three sons. The marriage eventually ended in divorce, and Hunter married Mary Vann Finley in 1973.
Until 1954, Hunter held various jobs: He was a substitute teacher in New York vocational schools, worked for a literary agency, answered the night phone at the American Automobile Club, and sold lobsters for a wholesale firm. Although by 1954 he had published nearly one hundred short stories and had written several novels as Evan Hunter and under various pen names, The Blackboard Jungle (1954) was the first to bring him success.
The first novel Hunter published under the name Ed McBain was the initial 87th Precinct novel Cop Hater (1956) . The author maintained a stylistic distinction between his more literary Hunter persona and his grittier McBain alter ego. The McBain name became so well established, however, that works originally published under Hunter’s other pseudonyms were eventually reissued under the McBain byline.
Hunter wrote the screenplay for Hitchcock’s late masterpiece, The Birds, and a number of television movies of the 87th Precinct novels have been made. His frank Let’s Talk (2005) describes the author’s fight with throat cancer and the difficult adjustment to living without a voice. Hunter died on July 6, 2005, from cancer of the larynx. Fiddler, the final installment in the 87th Precinct series, was published posthumously in 2005.