Bunker, Edward 1933-2005

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BUNKER, Edward 1933-2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born December 31, 1933, in Hollywood, CA; died of complications from surgery July 19, 2005, in Burbank, CA. Actor and author. Bunker was a former criminal who became a critically praised novelist of books largely based on his life of crime. The son of divorced parents who were in the theater, he grew up in foster homes and military academies. Rebelling against authority, by the age of twelve he was sent to reform school; by age fourteen he had been convicted of burglary, and by seventeen he was serving time in Los Angeles County Jail. Bunker would become an inmate in some of the country's toughest prisons, including San Quentin State Prison and the Folsom State Prison. His life began to turn around when he chanced to read Cell 2455, Death Row by convict Caryl Chessman, who was known as the "Red-Light Bandit." That a prisoner could write and publish a book was a revelation for Bunker, and he decided to emulate the accomplishment by taking English courses, reading magazines about writing, and penning his own books. After several failed attempts, he found success with his first novel, No Beast So Fierce (1972). This was followed by more well-received crime novels, including The Animal Factory (1977), Little Boy Blue (1981), and Dog Eat Dog (1996). Some of Bunker's books were adapted to film: Straight Time (1978) was based on his debut, and Animal Factory, for which he wrote the screenplay, was filmed in 2000. Bunker was also the coauthor of the screenplay for Runaway Train (1985), in which he had an acting part and for which he received an Oscar nomination. Beginning with 1978's Straight Time, Bunker began acting in a number of films. Among his supporting roles were parts in 1988's Fear, 1992's Reservoir Dogs, 1994's Somebody to Love, and 2005's The Longest Yard. In addition, he served as a technical advisor to films, showing actors how to behave more realistically as convicts. Bunker wrote about his life in his final publication, Education of a Felon: A Memoir (2000). At the time of his death, he had just been commissioned to write a film adaptation of Suicide Hill by James Ellroy.



Bunker, Edward, Education of a Felon: A Memoir, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2000.

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 31, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.


Chicago Tribune, July 26, 2005, section 3, p. 10.

New York Times, July 27, 2005, p. C17.

Times (London, England), July 26, 2005, p. 53.

Washington Post, July 25, 2005, p. B6.