Ford Morgan & Roy Shepherd

Created by Michael Collins

In 1995’s The Cadillac Cowboy, Michael Collins gave us not one, but two intriguing detective characters to add to our list. While neither LANGFORD “FORD” MORGAN or ROY ROGERS SHEPHERD are actually private eyes per se, they’re both far too good at what they do to be dismissed as mere amateurs. And while Morgan is the ostensible protagonist here, it is the startling contrasts (and similarites) between these two strong characters that drives this book, a compelling, bittersweet meditation on honour, courage, duty, corruption, greed and love.

Morgan has been around. He’s a taciturn ex-CIA op, ex-soldier, and “ex-go-between in the drug wars from Southeast Asia to Colombia,” in his mid-forties living the good–if somewhat quiet–life in Costa Rica, with a lady friend, Lareina, when a call comes from an ex-wife. Rachel. She’s re-married, to big shot tycoon Ralph Baliol and is living in Santa Barbara. Rachel tells Morgan that her spoiled son Johnny has been charged in the attempted murder of her husband. Bored and feeling somewhat obligated, packs up his gear and Lareina, and heads to California to help.

It soon becomes clear to Morgan that Johnny is innocent, but he discovers there is indeed someone trying to kill Ralph. Worse, it turns out there are plenty of suspects, since Ralph seems to make a habit of shafting just about everyone he deals with. Before long, Morgan is wrapped up in big money stock swindles, rape, a logging company intent on clearcutting the endangered redwood forests of Northern California’s Lost Coast, murder cover-ups, radical environmentalists and a damsel in distress who may not need rescuing half as much as Morgan does.

In the course of his adventures, Morgan runs up against Shepherd, the “Cadillac Cowboy” of the title. Shepherd is Baliol’s hired man, a free-spirited adventurer and alleged “bodyguard” with an even more checkered past than Morgan’s, a Vietnam vet with a criminal past and a string of arrests behind him, who favors cowboy hats and tools around in a massive Caddy with–get this!–cow horns on the hood. He moves in and out of the story like a menacing ghost until finally, working opposite sides of the case (and the law), Morgan and Shepherd finally confront each other, and discover who the real enemy is.


Author Michael Collins (actually Dennis Lynds) is best known as the creator of Dan Fortune, the one-armed private eye whose often gloomy take on life is shared by both Morgan and Shepherd. Collins is an Edgar winner and the recipient of The Eye, a lifetime achievement award from the Private Eye Writers of America. In the passionate and angry slow burn of The Cadillac Cowboy, Collins raises the stakes (once again), and ultimately presents a blistering, unflinching look not just at the politics and culture we live in as a society, but at the personal lies men tell themselves to survive.

Highly recommended.


  • The Cadillac Cowboy is not a Dan Fortune. It was the first of what I hoped would be a new series featuring a hero who may or may not be actually named Ford Morgan—Dan was getting a bit old, and the Fortune books were earning less money. It started as an attempt to write a thriller, but ended up being pretty much the same as a Dan Fortune. I started another thriller and finally completed it this year and hope to have it published soon… But Dan kept going in short stories, and I am now ready to bring him back, in novels maybe along with Morgan who is also “the Irishman” from The Irishman’s Horse!”
    Dennis Lynds (May 2005,  Rara-Avis)
  • The Cadillac Cowboy shows… Collins at his evocative, powerful best. Ford Morgan is the thinking man’s detective for the ’90s, and, as always, Collins’ blend of politics and passion delivers a powerful punch. The issues resonate, the characters sing — a truly fine novel.”
    — John Lescroart



Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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