Author Evan Hunter, 78, who as Ed McBain became the master of the police procedural novel with his "87th Precinct" series and was one of the most prolific and bestselling authors of his day, died July 6 at his home in Weston, Conn. He was diagnosed with throat cancer three years ago and also had had three heart attacks and triple-bypass surgery.
In Mr. Hunter's graphic prose, there were no lone wolf detectives like Philip Marlowe or amateur sleuths like the country vicar. Starting with "Cop Hater" (1956) and ending more than 50 books later with "Fiddlers," to be published this fall, Mr. Hunter chronicled beat cops, forensic detectives and others in the 87th Precinct as they solve murders, rapes and the range of human miseries in the fictional metropolis of Isola.
Mr. Hunter once said that "the only valid people to deal with crime were cops, and I would like to make the lead character, rather than a single person, a squad of cops instead -- so it would be a conglomerate lead character."
If he did not invent the police procedural style, he "single-handedly popularized" it, emphasizing the entire precinct as it went about its work, said publisher Otto Penzler, founder of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York. He dominated the field, Penzler said, having perhaps his greatest influence on television, particularly such shows as "Hill Street Blues" and the "CSI" series.
Despite the sheer volume of his prose, most critics wrote that Mr. Hunter's books remained fresh and inventive, filled with vivid humor, drama and gore. He was said to have written short stories early on to match pulp magazine covers. While he wrote the 87th Precinct novels to illustrate a simple truth -- "Cops have a tough, underpaid job, and they deal with murder every day of the week, and that's the way it is, folks," he said -- he composed dozens of other titles, under several names, touching on far more sensitive themes.
His works of fiction that didn't deal with police included "The Blackboard Jungle" (1954), his exposure of the educational system; "Buddwing" (1964), about an amnesiac; "Sons" (1969), about the legacy of war in the 20th century; and "Love, Dad" (1981), about failing family ties during the anti-establishment movement of the 1960s.
He worked as a screenwriter, notably adapting a Daphne du Maurier short story into Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" (1963). "Hitch and I spent months trying to get it further away from her," he once said of his version, which featured marauding seagulls.
Many of his books were readily adapted to the screen, perhaps most unexpectedly by Akira Kurosawa in "High and Low" (1963). Based on Mr. Hunter's 1959 novel, "King's Ransom," the film was about a tycoon whose son's kidnapping comes at the time when he has mortgaged all he has in a bid for control of the company.
Mr. Hunter was born Salvatore Albert Lombino on Oct. 15, 1926, on his family's kitchen table in Manhattan. He had hoped to be an artist but turned to writing when he discovered so many of his classmates at the Cooper Union were vastly superior in talent and passion. An only child of a mail carrier, he was long practiced at inventing dialogue while playing with his toy soldiers.
He left school to join the Navy and was serving in the Pacific when he began writing in earnest. "I was on a destroyer in the peacetime Pacific, and there wasn't much else to do," he once said. He made submissions under several names, but he was not successful under any of them.
He graduated from Hunter College in 1950 and began selling science fiction stories to dime magazines. His first was called "Find the Feathered Serpent." He also played jazz piano, sold lobsters, taught at a vocational school and worked as a literary agent to meet his growing family obligations.
He wove his classroom experiences into "The Blackboard Jungle," marking the debut of Evan Hunter, the name his editor suggested to appeal to a mass audience.
In sympathetically showcasing an idealistic inner-city teacher and his delinquent students, he seemed to shame the far-tamer portraits often seen in the press in daily school coverage.
An editor at Pocket Books who hoped to mimic the success of Erle Stanley Gardner's million-selling "Perry Mason" mystery books approached Mr. Hunter to develop a suspense series of his own.
That became the 87th Precinct, where over the years, a favorite character emerged, the detective Steve Carella, who is married to a beautiful deaf-mute named Teddy.
Mr. Hunter researched heavily, spending vast amounts of time in squad cars, precinct buildings and in crime labs before writing his first word -- efforts that won him vast recognition for the accuracy of his dialogue and plotting and descriptions of body parts on sidewalks and in gutters.
He also relied on some innate ability for invention.
He told an interviewer in 1997: "I have never in my lifetime been on a rooftop in the middle of winter with a Puerto Rican man grieving over a bird that got killed in a cockfight, never in my life. A Puerto Rican man in a pink cotton sweater, dead drunk. . . . Never.
"But that scene to me is so real, just talking about it now I feel as if I'm on that rooftop, with these cops talking to his drunken guy who's just confessed to killing someone, their hands hovering near the butts of their revolvers."
Other series sprang up over the years, including one featuring a luckless lawyer named Matthew Hope.
All aspects of his life invariably ended up in print, from his relationship with Hitchcock ("Hitch and Me," 1997) to his cancer, which caused him to use a prosthetic voice box ("Let's Talk," 2005).
Known for a dark and mischievous sense of humor, he once said the cancer had its blessings.
"I can kiss my wife all night if I want to," he said, "because I don't have to breathe through my mouth."
His marriages to Anita Melnick Hunter and Mary Vann Finley Hunter ended in divorce.
Survivors include his third wife, Dragica Dimitrijevic-Hunter; three sons from his first marriage; and a stepdaughter.