Dan Banion

Created by Robert Finnegan
Pseudonym of Paul William Ryan
Other pseudonyms include Mike Quin

DAN BANION is a reporter for The San Francisco Journal who acts so much like a private eye at times that “he often seems to forget that he owes the city editor a story,” according to T.J. Binyon in his 1989 survey of the genre, Murder Will Out.

Banion only appeared in three books in the nineteen forties, but the combination of hard-boiled swagger, wounded compassion (he’s a widower still very much in mourning) and surprisingly progressive (for the era) social conscience set him apart from so many of the glib, knuckle-dragging P.I. novels that would soon reach their epitome in the “noxious patriotism and cult of manhood in writers like Mickey Spillane,” as frumiousb, a surprisingly interesting and well-informed Amazon reviewer once put it.

In the same review he praised Finnegan for his characterization, and for his detective’s M.O. “Banion solves the crime by listening and talking– by being a friend to the man in the street. He’s an ordinary joe who was dealt a hard hand and uses his position and perspective to help the little guy.”

But his publishers rushed to dispell the notion that Banion was a pushover. One cover blurbs reassured readers that Banion is the kind of “no holds-barred kind of operative who couldn’t be stopped by cops or by criminals.”  


The San Francisco-born author was a sailor, shop worker, bookseller,  and a “rank-and-file journalist” sympathetic to the labour movement who eventually joined the Communist party. He married Mary King O’Donnell in 1944, and was only 41 when he died. Given his labour sympathies and the tenor of the times and the blacklist looming, it shouldn’t come as much of a surpise that he used pseudonyms. Under the journalistic pen name Mike Quin, he even wrote a book called The Big Strike, an in your face chronicle of the 1934 San Francisco dockworkers’ strike. He died from cancer on August 14, 1947 in Olema, California.


  • “Banion reveals corruption in government and the press, gets beaten about a bit, and finds out who murdered the maid of the wealthy Hibleys… Finnegan writes well and amusingly.”
    — William F. Deeck (Mystery*File)



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with thanks to David Pekasky for the thunk on the head.

One thought on “Dan Banion

  1. Hi Kevin,
    Good to read about Robert Finnegan, who belonged, with Jim Thompson, Dashiell Hammett, Guy Endore, Helen Eustis and Len Zinberg/Ed Lacy,to the CPUSA. If Thompson and Eustis, who stayed progressive, quit swiftly, Finnegan was a member of the Party until his death. Under his Mike Quin pseudo (known to the FBI and the Committee on Un-American Activities, since he is cited in their report for California in 1948, he wrote hundreds of articles published later in two volumes (Dangerous Thoughts and More Dangerous Thoughts, with an preface by Theodore Dreiser). He wrote too a short story for Scribner’s, The Sacred Thing (1933), Esquire (Business for Bullets- September 1947) and a chronicle about Radio mystery serials for Salute (Vol.2, N°4, April 1947). As for union and communist presses, he wrote innumerable papers for Partisan (a John Reed Club organ), New Masses, People’s World, and The Waterfront Worker. He was also in charge of radio programs for the CIO for the California. At last, a sketch he wrote, “Bongo and Wowsy” was played on Hollywood and New York scenes and enclosed in a Meet The People production.
    Unfortunately for him, he died before seing two of his books published!


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