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Last Updated: Friday, 8 July, 2005, 04:54 GMT 05:54 UK
US crime novelist Ed McBain dies
Ed McBain
McBain first appeared in print in 1956
Ed McBain, the US writer whose gritty crime novels sold over 100m copies worldwide, has died of cancer, aged 78.

In a writing career that also produced plays and screenplays, he was best known for the 87th Precinct series, which paved the way for TV cop dramas.

Born Salvatore Lombino in New York, he first changed his name to Evan Hunter, but found fame as Ed McBain, starting with Cop Hater in 1956.

He also wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's thriller, The Birds.

In all, McBain wrote over 100 novels, plays and filmscripts in a career spanning half a century.

He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2002 and underwent radical surgery to remove his voice-box.

But the cancer returned, and he died peacefully on Wednesday at his home in Connecticut.

School days

In 1986, the Mystery Writers of America awarded him its Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement.

He continued working until his death, and a new novel in the 87th Precinct series. Learning To Kill, will be published later this year.

McBain served in the US Navy in World War II, and changed his name in 1952, because he believed that Italians were not taken seriously in publishing.

He took the name Evan Hunter, and had his first success two years with The Blackboard Jungle, a partly autobiographical about a teacher in an inner-city school, which was turned into a film a year later, featuring Sidney Poitier and Glenn Ford.

Contract extended

In 1956, writing as Ed McBain, he launched what became known as the police procedural genre, focusing in detail on the work of police squad as it investigates and solves a single crime.

The 87th Precinct series were set in an unnamed city which bore a strong resemblance to New York.

"The first contract was for three books," he recalled.

"I thought that might be the end of it; easy come, easy go. The next contract was for another three. I began to suspect then that I might be around for a while."

The format transferred well to television, and series like Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, Colombo and Kojak owe much to the 87th Precinct novels.

As well as writing a screenplay for Hitchcock, McBain adapted screenplays from his own novels, including Fuzz (1972) and Strangers When We Meet (1960).

Shortly before his death, McBain said he had lost track of the number of books he had written, and the number of pen names he had used.

Obituary: Ed McBain
08 Jul 05 |  Entertainment


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