Friday, June 18, 2010

Ed Lacy coulda been a contender

Ed here: Ed Lacy was an excellent writer. Money pressure forced him to write some books that weren't his best but when you put Room To Swing and The Men From The Boys and Harlem Underground and five or six others together you're looking at a significant career. was going to write about Ed Lacy (thank you in advance, Ed) but then I remembered that my buddy Ed Lynskey had already done a much better job than I would have anyway--so here from a fine long article that is really worth your time is a small excerpt:


On Sunday, January 7, 1968, crime author Leonard “Len” S. Zinberg, perhaps better known by his Ed Lacy pseudonym, suffered a fatal coronary in a laundromat near his 75 St. Nicholas Place residence in north Harlem. He was 56. A widow Esther (1910-86) and a daughter Carla (born in the late 1950s, possibly adopted, and presumably still living) survived him. Zinberg had had a medical history of heart trouble dating back as early as 1960.

Zinberg wrote about his heart ailments as “a form of therapy” as well as “a source of story ideas.” As early as 1946 in a New Yorker piece titled “The Convert,” he wrote about an apartment dweller whose heart is “pretty bad.” One year after his first heart attack, he brought out Bugged For Murder (Avon, 1961) about PI Billy Wallace with a bad ticker who becomes a couch potato. In The Hotel Dwellers (Harper & Row, 1966), Howie Fisher managing a hotel gift shop leads the sedentary lifestyle of a recovering heart patient. Looks are deceptive. On the same novel’s rear dust jacket, a grainy black-and-white portrait of the burly Zinberg (who resembles a begrizzled Alan Arkin) glowers back at us any thing but sedate.

Little is known of Zinberg’s early life. He was born on August 25, 1911 in New York City (some sources say upstate New York) to Max and Elizabeth Zinberg. This marriage ended in divorce a few years later. Max Zinberg, 88, died in Newark, New Jersey in November 1972. Elizabeth remarried to Maxwell Wyckoff and Len went to live with them in Manhattan from age ten on. “Mac” Wyckoff, a Yale graduate, worked as a banking lawyer at the firm Livingston, Livingston, & Harris. Len as a teenager lived in a fairly affluent family at 450 West 153rd Street on the fringes of Harlem.

Alan Wald, a professor at the University of Michigan, points out that Len’s interest in African American culture and leftist politics stemmed from his 1920s Jewish heritage. During the late 1920s, Zinberg attended the College of the City of New York. During the 1930s his wanderjahr throughout the United States included working at a series of odd jobs (once as a butcher) to support himself. By the early 1940s, Zinberg returned to The Big Apple where he married and resided for the balance of his life.

for the rest go here:

you can read Ed Lacy's Edgar winning novel Room To Swing free on line


Anonymous said...

One of my favorite hardboiled writers from that age. The Hotel Dwellers was a good read, but more mainstream than his crime fiction. Thanks for including Mr. Lacy on your blog, Ed.

Richard Simms said...

A great writer. I picked up some more of his paperback novels at the annual Pulp and Paperback Fair in London last weekend. Among these was "Room to Swing," which I have never read before. His works are edgy, character driven and compelling to read. Superb, realistic dialogue. Intense descriptions of inner city landscapes. And yet, his diversity as an author is evident in novels such as South Pacific Affair, a book full of local colour and adventure. Lacy was a master of the short story form as well. He deserves to be better remembered than he is today.