Stephen King and Nelson DeMille on Ed McBain
I think Evan Hunter, known by that name or as Ed McBain, was one of the most influential writers of the postwar generation. He was the first writer to successfully merge realism with genre fiction, and by so doing I think he may actually have created the kind of popular fiction that drove the best-seller lists and lit up the American imagination in the years 1960 to 2000. Books as disparate as The New Centurions
, The Friends of Eddie Coyle
, The Godfather
, Black Sunday
, and The Shining
all owe a debt to Evan Hunter, who taught a whole generation of baby boomers how to write stories that were not only entertaining but that truthfully reflected the times and the culture. He will be remembered for bringing the so-called "police procedural" into the modern age, but he did so much more than that. And he was one hell of a nice man. --Stephen King
Way back in the mid-1970s, when I was a new writer and police series were very big, my editor asked me to do a series called Joe Ryker, NYPD.
I had no idea how to write a police detective novel, but the editor handed me a stack of books and said, “These are the 87th Precinct novels by Ed McBain. Read them and you’ll know everything you need to know about police novels.” After I read the first book--which I think was Let’s Hear It for the Deaf Man
--I was hooked, and I read every Ed McBain I could get my hands on. Then I sat down and wrote my own detective novel, The Sniper
, featuring Joe Ryker. My series never reached the heights of the 87th Precinct series, but by reading those classic masterpieces, I learned all I needed to know about urban crime and how detectives think and act. And I had a hell of a time learning from the master. Years later, when I actually got to meet Ed McBain/Evan Hunter, I told him this story, and he said, “I would have liked it better if my books inspired you to become a detective instead of becoming my competition.” Evan and I became friends, and I was privileged to know him and honored to be in his company. I remain indebted to him for his good advice over the years. But most of all, I thank him for hundreds of hours of great reading. --Nelson DeMille
To read about how Ed McBain influenced other mystery and thriller writers, visit our Perspectives on McBain page.
For a complete selection of 87th Precinct novels available from Thomas & Mercer, visit our Ed McBain's 87th Precinct Booklist.