More on Ed McBain and the Matthew Hope series. I had remembered a few oddities about McBain, aka Evan Hunter, from his obituary in 2005. I remembered that his real name was something odd and Italian and that Evan Hunter was a name he used when he first began publishing, the name I remembered from his 1953 novel The Blackboard Jungle and the subsequent movie version with Glenn Ford and Sidney Poitier. I remember it so well because I first saw this movie in a 42nd St. theater in New York in 1955, pretty much surrounded by a black audience. There I was, a white country bumpkin from South Dakota with almost no experience with blacks of any kind, let alone big city blacks. It was memorable also for the appearance of Poitier who went on to become a major player in American films.
I’m now reading Mary, Mary, the tenth book in the Hope series. Matthew has just begun an affair with Particia Demming, the fiery assistant d.a. She has told him often that she hates to be called Pat or Trish, once upon a time even breaking a football player’s nose when he kept calling her Pat. Here’s what I stumbled onto, something Matthew says about names and people’s preferences: “I’ve always felt that people should be called what they wish to be called, don’t you? If Salvatore wants to be called Evan, I owe him the dignity and respect of free choice, which isn’t always so easy to come by in this land of the free and home of the brave.” Salvatore? Evan? My mind went back to that obituary. So I did the Wikipedia bit and sure enough, he was born Salvatore Lombino in 1926, and in 1952 he changed his name legally to Evan Hunter, the “Hunter” from Hunter College where he earned his degree. I also found in my McBain search that he was even more prolific than most others with the reputation for prolificacy: Robert Parker (76), Louis Lamour (62), Zane Grey (50), Stephen King (48), and the champion Earl Stanley Gardner (160). In addition to hundreds of short stories, Even Hunter, or Salvatore Lombino, wrote 122 novels. When did the man actually live? Did he ever go see a movie? Spend a day at the beach or Disney World? Journey to Europe? Did he ever play golf? Bowl? See a baseball game? There simply wasn’t enough time to do much of anything other than sit at a typewriter or computer. Talk about the likelihood of carpal tunnel syndrome.
My admiration for the man and his writing keeps going up. When I finish the Matthew Hope series, I think I’ll go back through the entire 87rh Precinct saga (53! Whew!).