Ed Gray (The Buena Costa County series)

Created by John Crowe
Pseudonym  of Dennis Lynds


ED GRAY is the private eye hero of book number four, 1975’s Crooked Shadows (and possibly a few others), in John Crowe’s Buena Costa County series, a string of six novels set in a fictional jurisdiction along the southern California Coast, just north of Los Angeles that is purportedly “rugged and full of individualists… an exciting and sometimes dangerous place to live.”

In this character-rich Southern California landscape of mountains and sea, ranches and small towns, Lynds created a lauded and innovative work — a series of six books in which the lives and careers of police, politicians, wealthy horse people, hippies in exile, loners, cowboys, and dazzling movie stars intersect periodically, and violence explodes.Although there are recurring characters, including Ed himself, each book focusses on a different detective or investigator, sometimes a cop, sometimes an amateur sleuth, once even a member of the Border Patrol.

Another detective popping up now and then is LEE BECKETT a former New York City police captain with a sterling reputation, who is called in occasionally throughout the series by the local police to lend a hand, and later becomes a county investigator.

In his Encyclopedia Mysteriosa, William D’Andrea cited this series’ Ross Macdonald-ish qualities, and generally the series drew very high praise from critics, but it never really caught on–I’m not even sure if any of the books even made it into paperback in the American market. Europe? That’s another story. It seems Crowe/Lynds/Arden/Collins/whatever, had a substantial following in Europe.

John Crowe was a pseudonym of the one-man mystery factory Dennis Lynds, who wrote a ton of books and short stories, but is probably best known for his series about one-armed P.I. Dan Fortunethat he wrote as Michael Collins.


  • Crooked Shadows is full of complicated relationships, most of them revolving around a rich landowner, his stolen Cranach, his leftist‐hippie son and a smart private eye. There is murder, and the murderer seems to be building up to something very big. Complicated as the plotting is, Crowe handles it deftly. He is an admirable stylist, a master of mood and effect, a workman in the Hammett tradition. His private eye, Ed Gray, is a direct descendant of the Continental Op.”
    — Newgate Callendar (August 1975, The New York Times Book Review)
  • “Mythical … more frontier America than anything else, where the rules of civilization sit lightly.”
    — The New York Times on Buena Costa County


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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