Friday, February 20, 2009

Pohl-Hunter

Frederik Pohl is one of the most distinguished science fiction writers and editors of all time. Like many of my generation Pohl's work (sometimes with his friend and collaborator the late C.M. Kornbluth) defined the social science fiction in vogue during the reign of editor H.L. Gold and his Galaxy magazine of the Fifties and Sixties. Pohl is a pro and changed with the times, writing many award-winning novels and stories in contemporary sf as well. But for me his most lasting work can be found in his first half dozen collections and novels such as The Space Merchants (with Kornbluth) and Drunkard's Walk (solo). I mention all this because in his time Pohl has known just about everybody who was anybody in the NYC publishing scene. Bill Crider linked to Pohl's blog tonight and turned this up:

"Evan Hunter, which in turn is a pseudonym of Sal Lombino, whom I had known slightly back around 1950, when he was a sort of office manager for the Scott Meredith Literary Agency.

"The story goes that Lombino answered the phone one day when a publisher was calling.

"Publisher: “Listen, we have a great novel title and we need somebody to write the novel for it. The title is The Blackboard Jungle and it should be about troubles in our high schools. Got anybody who could do that?”

"Lombino: “Sure we do. How about, let me see, oh, yeah. How about, uh, Evan, ah, Hunter?”

"Well, something like that, anyway. I don’t guarantee I’ve got all the details straight."

Ed here: Has anybody else ever heard this version of how The Blackboard Jungle came to be? Obviously Pohl is a reliable reporter and novels have been borne of even vaguer descriptions between publisher and writers. But as a longtime Hunter-McBain fan (I read the first 87th Precinct Cop Hater when it was a brand-new paperback) I'm curious about this story.

6 comments:

Bill Crider said...

I'm curious, too, Ed. And a little skeptical.

Ed Gorman said...

Yeah I'm skeptical too. I learned one thing when I edited Mystery Scene. A large number of accepted "facts" aren't facts at all.

Ed Gorman said...

Yeah I'm skeptical too. I learned one thing when I edited Mystery Scene. A large number of accepted "facts" aren't facts at all.

RJR said...

Barry Malzberg might know. He worked at Meredith. I'd suggest getting in touch with John Lutz, who knows Barry well.

RJR

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