RARA-AVIS: Re: Evan Hunter as Curt Cannon: Clinton

From: Richard Moore ( moorich2@aol.com)
Date: 25 May 2006

--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, "Bill Crider" <macavityabc@...> wrote:
> In my Sheriff Dan Rhodes novels one of the characters is a big fan
of Ed
> McBain's 87th Precinct books, and I had a little fun with the
various pen
> names in one book. I also included McBain's birth name and even
threw in a
> Simpsons reference. I got a very nice letter from McBain about
it, but his
> main purpose wasn't to compliment me. It was to let me know that
his legal
> name was Evan Hunter.
> Bill Crider
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

This reminds me of aspects of Hunter's Smithsonian appearance
(mentioned in an earlier post) circa 1982 that bother me to this day. As I mentioned earlier, this was before the general lionizing of mystery writers and to be invited to be a guest of the Smithsonian Institute was understandably a very big deal for each of the writers.

I knew the organizer Michele Slung because she had selected one of my short stories for an anthology she edited and I introduced myself at the first event. Thereafter, I would arrive somewhat early and chat with her and with the evening's author as the crowd arrived. Without it ever being discussed, I think Michele liked having someone else there who was knowledgable about the writer's career and could help put them at ease. Donald Westlake and Eric Ambler were among the other participants.

I recall that Hunter seemed very nervous. He struck me as someone who was genuinely shy and uncomfortable in this type of setting. He grabbed the issue of Manhunt I had brought as if the recognizable artifact could serve as a life preserver. We chatted for some minutes and I immediately liked him.

He gave his talk and then opened it up for questions. The audience members seemed shy and reluctant to say anything. I lobbed up some softballs and kept things moving. I considered this part of my unofficial duties during the series.

But that night the questions from the audience lagged more than usual and I kept having to dig deeper. Eventually, I cheerfully asked something like: "Wasn't your birthname S.A. Lombino?" His face flushed and he stammered like a guilty witness in a Perry Mason novel. I've read his later comments on hsi name change to Pete Hammil and others but that night he was undone by the question. He sort of confirmed it but not quite and he questioned how it mattered and then turned it back on me in a bit of a counter-attack.

Now I didn't mean anything by it and didn't consider it the revelation of the ages. It was fairly well known and he had published stories under the byline S.A. Lombino. I had no agenda in asking the question other than causing a rumble of interest in the audience (and let's be honest here, a bit of a "look ma! I know something special!"). Heck, I even knew that Scott Meredith always pushed changing names that seemed too ethnic.

His reaction caught me by surprise and slammed the black hat on me as far as the rest of the audience was concerned. I stewed on this for a while as the questions from the others continued to be slow in coming and my back got up. I was a little pissed off. At that time I had spent most of my working life in the media and if he thought that was a tough question, he didn't know much about tough questions. So I threw him a couple that were very tough...firmly based on fact but so tough that I blush today to remember them. It's one of those times I would love to have back.

Richard Moore

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 25 May 2006 EDT