Dan Fortune

Created by Michael Collins
Pseudonym of Dennis Lynds

“We are a species that preys on itself. We live on our own kind, hunt each other. That’s what I wanted to tell the girl who faced me across the desk in the office part of my one-room loft, but I didn’t. I told her what the police had told me.”
— from Minnesota Strip (1987)


A kid from the streets of New York, DAN FORTUNE (born Fortunowski) lost his arm in an accident while he was looting a docked ship. Taking the incident as a sign that a life of crime might not be the best career path to take, Danny decided to go straight. After a stint in the Merchant Marine, he returned home and got his P.I. ticket, setting himself up as a one-man agency in the Chelsea and Greenwich Village section of NYC.

Not your typical let’s-get-physical hard-boiled dick (having only one arm sorta cuts down on the urge for fisticuffs), Dan has to rely more on his intelligence and compassion. Fortunately, Danny’s no dummy. Well-read and self-educated, his underdog’s empathy for other people makes him a great interrogator. People seem to really open up for him.

And it’s a good thing, too. More than any other private eye, Fortune is driven by the compulsion not just to know who? what? where? and when? but to also know why. The other questions interest him, but for Dan, the all-consuming obsession is not just to know, but to understand. He’s a persistent little cuss, and has done something else few series detectives have ever managed, never mind dared–namely changing locations. In Castrato (1989), Dan relocates from the back alleys and bars of New York City to the wide-open, sun-filled plazas of Santa Barbara, in Southern California. And he does it for his long-time lover, Kay Michaels.

But it’s the same old Dan. His compassion, particularly for society’s underdogs, has resulted in a series that evolved into one of the most compelling and insightful private eye series of the last few decades. Charges of political preachiness have been levelled at the series, particularly in the more recent novels, but anything more than a cursory reading will reveal that Dan’s interests (and, presumably those of Lynds) lie more in understanding people than in any particular agenda. Highly and heartily recommended.

And yes, I’m aware of the painful irony that many of the paperback editions were published by Playboy, the covers featuring various comely women in various disturbing states of distress–an unintentional conflict with the enduring compassion and sympathy that saturated the pages inside.

The infinite, broken sadness, based on real people and real lives, that lies at the heart of the series reveals the glib, cynical posturing of much modern “noir” for exactly what it is.


Author Michael Collins is just one pseudonym of Dennis Lynds (Collins was an Irish revolutionary), who also writes as William Arden, John Crowe, Carl Dekker, and Mark Sadler. Dan Fortune may be his most famous creation, but he’s also found time to create other PI’s, including Paul Shaw, Kane Jackson, Ford Morgan and Roy Shepherd. And Dan Fortune himself is actually a more refined, socially- and politically-aware version of an earlier detective character, Slot Machine” Kelly, who appeared in several short stories in such digests as Manhunt and Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. Lynds also wrote many of the Mike Shayne short stories under the house monicker of Brett Halliday for the latter magazine.

Lynds won The Eye, the Private Eye Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, in 1988.


  • “I lost my left arm. I’m right-handed. There is some good in everything, if you look at it correctly.”
  • “Four o’clock in the morning is that final moment of truth — the time when there is nowhere else to go but home. If a man has a home.”
  • “No one should ever have to live scared.”
  • “A man doesn’t need much money to eat, sleep dry, and get enough to drink to quiet the voices in his head or the pain in an arm that isn’t even there. How can something hurt that isn’t there? A stupid question. I’ve read my Freud. What’s missing hurts more than anything else, especially when you are alone at night. Sometimes I find myself lying awake and wondering if the arm is still alive somewhere and missing me. I wonder where the arm is now, and if it is lonely. Those are thoughts that can keep a man awake for a long time.”


  • “To spin tales as intriguing and thought provoking as these for three decades is a remarkable enough achievement. Even more remarkable is the sustained quality… It takes style to bring that off. Bravery, too, of course.”
    — The L.A. Times on Fortune’s World




  • “No One Likes to be Played for a Sucker” (July 1969, EQMM; First Cases)
  • “Scream All the Way” (October 1969, AHMM)
  • “Long Shot” (June 1972, AHMM; also AHMM Borrowers of the Night)
  • “Who?” (August 1972, AHMM)
  • “The Woman Who Ruined John Ireland” (November 1983, AHMM; aka “Dan Fortune and the Hollywood Caper”)
  • “The Oldest Killer” (November 1983, The Thieftaker Journals)
  • “Eighty Million Dead” (1984, The Eyes Have It)
  • “A Reason to Die” (September 1985, New Black Mask #2)
  • “Killer’s Mind” (June 1986, New Black Mask #6)
  • “The Motive” (1987, A Matter of Crime #2)
  • “Black in the Snow” (1988, An Eye for Justice)
  • “Crime and Punishment” (1988, A Matter of Crime #3)
  • “The Chair” (1990, Justice for Hire)
  • “Role Model” (1992, Deadly Allies)
  • “The Big Rock Candy Mountains” (1992, Crime, Punishment and Resurrection)
  • “Murder Is Murder (1992, Constable New Crimes 1)
  • “Culture Clash” (November 1994, EQMM)
  • “Angel Eyes” (1994, Deadly Allies #2)
  • “A Matter of Character” (1994, Partners in Crime)
  • “A Death in Montecito” (April 1995, EQMM)
  • “Can Shoot” (1998, Private Eyes)
  • “Family Values” (2000, Fortune’s World)
  • “Disney World” (May 2002, EQMM)
  • “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” (2002, Flesh and Blood: Dark Desires; also 2003, Mystery: The Best of 2002).
  • “Next-Door Dave” (July 2004, EQMM)
  • “Someone” (2004, The Mammoth Book of Roaring Twenties Whodunnits)
  • “Dan Fortune Has His Say” (Summer 2005, Thrilling Detective Web Site)
    Not really a short story, more an op-ed piece.
  • “The Kidnapping of Xiang Fei” (2005, Murder in Vegas)
  • “The Smoking Gun of Elizabeth Henze” (July 2006, EQMM)


  • “From the Casebook of Michael Collins’ Dan Fortune” Buy this game
    (1988, Mayfair Games; expansion pack)
    An extension pack for The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Game, promising “Four Dan Fortune Mysteries for 1-6 Players,” written by someone named Debbie Christian. The idea is that you’re Dan fortune, trying to crack a case. The main game comes with a full-colour board (conveniently, a map of New York City), clue cards, tokens, files and all the usual stuff, but the expansion pack seems to be mostly black & white print-outs, offering more Fortune-centric play.



Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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