Evan Hunter 1926–
(Born S. A. Lombino; also writes under pseudonym of Ed McBain; has also written under pseudonyms of Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, and Richard Marsten) American novelist, scriptwriter, short story writer, dramatist, and critic.
Hunter's works of popular fiction explore such family-oriented topics as parent-child relationships, love, and individual responsibility and such social issues as drug abuse, gang violence, and war. Under the pseudonym Ed McBain, Hunter is widely known for his realistic crime novels that center on a fictional urban police precinct. Although Hunter has maintained a large and faithful readership throughout his career, his work has yet to receive much serious critical attention.
Hunter published many short stories and science fiction works early in his career, but The Blackboard Jungle (1954) earned him his initial critical attention. This novel is based on Hunter's own experiences as an English teacher in a New York City vocational high school. The protagonist is a young, idealistic teacher whose enthusiasm is nearly turned to apathy by the indifferent attitude and lack of motivation of his students. The popular success of The Blackboard Jungle, still considered by some critics to be Hunter's finest work, helped foster greater understanding of the problems of teenage delinquency. The novel was adapted for film in 1955. In Sons (1969), another critically acclaimed novel, both world wars and the Vietnam conflict affect three generations of a midwestern American family. Critics contend that Hunter's depiction of America's rise to power—and the consequences of obtaining such power—evokes a poignant sense of history. In Streets of Gold (1974), another multi-generational novel, Hunter's narrative is focused on an Italian immigrant family and their search for the American dream at the expense of their old-world values. Although some critics noted an abundance of clichés and stock situations in this work, others found Streets of Gold rich in moralistic themes and praised Hunter's ironic depiction of happiness and prosperity in America.
Some critics maintain that Hunter has written his best fiction as Ed McBain. His series of detective novels, collectively titled The 87th Precinct Series, are commended for their authentic portrayal of urban crime prevention. Although there are recurring characters in these novels, most critics consider the precinct itself to be the most recognizable feature of the series. Another notable aspect of these books is the absence of the stereotyped detective common in crime fiction; unlike most other detectives, Hunter's investigators exhibit basic human traits and frailties. Although some critics view the later McBain novels as marginal in comparison to the earlier works, chiefly because they revolve around sensational sex crimes and grisly murders, Hunter is considered one of the most creative and original writers in the genre.
(See also CLC, Vol. 11; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 5; Something about the Author, Vol. 25; and Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1982.)