Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Ed McBain

From: Patrick King (
Date: 06 Jan 2010

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    I don't want to compare two good writers, but Evan Hunter had a very broad palette, he wrote about all kinds of things, not just crime. In particular, he was an outstanding short-story writer, stories without gimmicks, stories about people. I don't really think of him as a mystery writer, in fact. His mastery of characterization was impressive.

    There is an old story of his about two  youngish couples who live next to one another in some run-down apartment house, around New Year's Eve, it's one of the great American stories. Can't recall the title right now. I am talking about real emotion, not some slick narrative that merely sounds good.


    The Ed McBain novels are just as good. They all deal with crime, but eerie, brutal, realistic crime like you read about in the news and little by little, he explains to you how it happened. It's always very different from the way it looks. NOCTURN is an excellent example of his 87th Precinct novels. THE LAST BEST HOPE, for McBain's Matthew Hope series.

    My comment about Lawrence Block stems from the fact that I have never failed to be disappointed with Block's plot resolutions. His stories begin great, then seem to drift off into absurdity. EVERYBODY DIES, for example, has a riveting first chapter and then all down hill. I have never experienced this with Hunter/McBain.

    Patrick King


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