Dear Ed McBain,

I recently re-discovered your 87th Precinct novels. Man. Let me tell you. While you never really scaled the literary heights like, say, Pynchon, Wolfe, or Seuss, that was a solid series you had going on there.

It was a sad day when you succumbed to laryngeal cancer. I didn’t know that until I’d looked you up on Wikipedia. I didn’t know you wrote the screenplay to The Birds, either. How about that!

Apparently you fell out with Hitchcock over a scene in the adaptation of the novel Marnie. Don’t feel too bad. Hitchcock and Chandler fell out too. Chandler is quoted as saying ‘Look at that fat bastard trying to get out of his car!’, so I’m going to assume that the relationship wasn’t a good one.

Now that I think about it, that’s pretty mean. Hitchcock struggled with his weight all his life.

Still, as an impartial observer, and from what I’ve read of your books, you’d appreciate it as a scene, if nothing else.

I like the way that your characters unfold across the books. Poor Bert Kling. He was a nice guy – why’d you go and give him such a hard time? Then again, you were nothing if not a good observer of the unfairness of life. And you seemed to have such sympathy for people. Affection, even.

I don’t think I’d call you a great writer, Ed. A solid writer, for sure. And a great storyteller. That’s a pretty good combination, and I’m glad you were around. I don’t even really read crime fiction as a rule, but then, I guess there’s always an exception. I’m glad you’re mine.



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SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

3 responses to “Dear Ed McBain”

  1. Don Mitchell says:

    Oh yeah. Ed McBain was one of the better ones, especially in the ways his characters grew — including the bad guys. You probably know that he was really Evan Hunter, a good literary novelist. If not, now you do.

    Simon, have you done other American crime novelists? Ross McDonald is pretty good. James M. Cain, Chandler of course. And there are others, for sure.

    For me, though, the finest long-drawn out series, regardless of nationality, is Janwillem van de Wetering’s Amsterdam detective series. They are really, really good (I think).

    Also, van de Wetering has three books about his experiences with Zen that are pretty interesting, too. When I read The Japanese Corpse, I thought — this guy knows a lot about Japan. But I didn’t find out how and why he knew so much for a long time.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      That goddamn Deaf Man! What a complete asshole.

      I never got into his Hunter stuff as much as I did his McBain work. Funny, that. Guess there is something in a name.

      I got into the noir guys a while back, and enjoed them. As for Jim Thompson… goddamn. That guy knew his business.

      I’ll be sure to check out van de Wetering. As a rule, I don’t read crime all that much, but, you know, broadening the horizons and all that.

  2. good morning, Excellent blog, I have read through the enitre thread and although not to knowledagable regarding the subject it does make for a good read, keep up the terrific work

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