Dennis Lynds

Pseudonyms include Michael Collins, William Arden, John Crowe, Robert Hart Davis, Carl Dekker, Mark Sadler, Sheila Lynds, Sheila McErlean, John Douglas, Walter Dallas
House pseudonyms include Nick Carter, Brett Halliday, Don Pendleton, Maxwell Grant

“I just ask questions.”
September 29, 2002, Santa Barbara Book Festival

“I write mysteries to say something, not just for entertainment.”
Santa Barbara News-Press, 1982.

One of the true masters of the private eye novel (and a class act all the way), DENNIS LYNDS, under his own and multitude of pen names, not only gave us some genuinely memorable P.I.s, but has, in his own tough, quiet way, truly stretched the boundaries of the genre, bringing a sense of compassion and political awareness to it that too often gives little but lip service to such notions. Most notable of all is Lynds’ series featuring his introspective, compassionate one-armed detective, Dan Fortune, written under the pen name of Michael Collins,  one of the few long-running P.I. series that actually challenged one to think about things. And even better, not the same things every time.

It’s just a crime the Fortune series has never gotten the acclaim or sales they deserved. While other flashier, trendier (and louder) writers, with their big turgid tomes, played it frustratingly safe and playing lip service politics, talkin’ loud and sayin’ nothin’, all the while racketing up sales, Lynds continued to take chances. With his quiet, tough, empathetic voice and solid storytelling, Lynds spoke volumes. Dan Fortune and all his other heroes not only talked the talk, but walked the walk, and offered plenty of proof, as if any were needed, that a detective novel could have a social conscience, and still ask hard questions. Lynds was determined to rise above the genre’s conventions; to imbue his work with his own keen intelligence, sly wit, psychological insight and vivid characterization, political and cultural conscience, and love of good writing. Like Natty Bumpo before him, Fortune dared “to speak the truth consarnin’…any man that lived.” We need more like him.

His contributions went far beyond just the Fortune books, though. In his long career, he wrote over eighty novels and god knows how many short stories, novellas, novelettes, essays and articles.

* * * * *

Lynds was born in St. Louis in 1924, to two British actors who were on tour, and spent his early years in London, England. The family moved to New York City when he was six, where he spent the rest of his childhood, and attended Brooklyn Technical High School. He subsequently attended The Cooper Union in New York and Texas A&M College before earning a B.A. in chemistry from Hofstra College in Hempstead, New York and an M.A. in journalism from Syracuse University.

He served in the infantry in WWII, receiving the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantry Badge, and three battle stars. Following the war, he returned to New York, and  attended Hofstra College in Hempstead, NY, receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, and took a lab position at Charles Pfizer & Co. Disillusioned with research scientist, he pursued a master’s degree in journalism at Syracuse University, while working as a writer and editor for chemical industry magazines and journals, while devoting his spare time to writing short stories and poetry, which began to appear in literary journals in the early l950s.

Combat Soldier, a novel based on his wartime experiences was published in 1962,  at about the same time that he began selling detective stories regularly to Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, under his own–and eventually various pen names. A second non-crime novel, Uptown, Downtown, appeared in 1963. Encouraged that both novels had been well-received, and that his crime stories had proven popular with readers, he quit his job and moved to Santa Barbara, with intentions of becoming a full-time writer.

He succeeded, and began churning out crime and detective novels at a furious place.

Too Friendly, Too Dead” (which appeared in the September 1962 issue of Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine) was the first novella I did for Leo Margulies and MSMM,” Lynds recalls. “Dave (Davis Dresser) bought it from me, changed the title and rewrote it as a novel. He did that with at least two other of my novellas for MSMM, and I later wrote what I think was his final novel for him. Again he rewrote it. His rewrites were never much, just put more in his style, because his novels were pretty short. All in all I wrote some 88 of the novellas as ‘Brett Halliday’.”

Lynds was also a prolific pen-for-hire, pumping out a steady stream of contracted works, including several novels in The Three Investigators series for young readers, particular favourites of mine as a kid, and hence a good part of the reason this site even exists. He also was responsible for several Shadow novels, under the house name of Maxwell Grant and a number of Nick Carter books, under that group name as well.

Dan Fortune himself is actually a more refined, socially- and politically-aware version of an earlier detective character of Lynds, “Slot Machine” Kelly, who appeared in several short stories in such pulp digests as Manhunt and Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

He also created series about private eyes Paul Shaw (as Mark Sadler) and Kane Jackson (as William Arden), and wrote standalone thrillers, and numerous novelizations and tie-ins. Under various housenames, he’s penned the adventures of such icons as Charlie Chan, The Shadow and, of course, Mike Shayne.

Lynds also wrote, under the pen name of John Crowe, the Buena Costa County series of crime novels, which takes its name from its setting, a fictional area along the southern California coast north of Los Angeles. There are recurring characters, but the detective varies from book to book. Sometimes it’s a cop, sometimes an amateur sleuth, sometimes a member of the Border Patrol. And one book features bona fide private eye Ed Gray. In his Encyclopedia Mysteriosa, William D’Andrea called this series Ross Macdonald-like, and went on to mention how Macdonald’s work was a major influence on Lynds. It turns out that not only was he an influence, but also a good friend. In fact, Macdonald and Lynds and his wife, fellow writer Gayle (Stone) Lynds,  were all residents of Santa Barbara.

In fact, he and Gayle wrote several books together, including a couple in the Mack Bolan, The Executioner series, under the Don Pendleton house name. And lest anyone forget, he was also Brett Halliday, pumping out all those Mike Shayne adventures.

A past president of The Private Eye Writers of America, Lynds was awarded The Eye, that organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award, in 1988.

I was fortunate enough to meet Dennis several times after I moved to California, and we corresponded a little. After some gentle nudging on my part, he even contributed a short piece for this site. Last time I saw him, we’d just split a cab ride from a PWA dinner back to the Bouchercon hotel in Toronto. I was off to a family dinner, and he was off to to a poker game.

Dennis’ sudden passing in August 2005 caught us all by surprise, and the rapid outburst of emotion displayed by the mystery community was as effusive as it was heartfelt and genuine. Dennis, in both his work and his life, touched a lot of people, and there’s a great big hole in the world now that he’s gone. I’ve collected a few of the comments that hit the web in a days following his death.

It’s a shame his work seemed to be such a hot potato among publishers but, to his credit, Lynds never backed down. Shortly before he passed away in August 2005, he told me that there were still some short stories in the works, and he had another Fortune novel in mind, perhaps, he suggested,  “Dan’s swan song.”

“If,” Dennis added, “anyone wants to pay me some bucks for it.”

Maybe we should have started passing a hat earlier. Suffice it to say that Dennis will be missed…



  • “A novelist of power and quality…. His (work) hums with life and feeling… one of the major imaginative creations in the crime field.”
    — Ross Macdonald
  • “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.”
    — Dick Lochte, on Fortune’s World
  • 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
  • “Lynds constantly strove to rise above the conventions of genre fiction, however, to imbue his work with his own intelligence, social conscience, and appreciation for literature.”
    — Bio Note from University of California: Santa Barbara archives


  • Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award, for Best Novel, Act of Fear, 1968.
  • Mystery Writers of America “Special” Award, 1969, for “Succession of a Mission,” (Argosy,
    April 1968), as by William Arden.
  • Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kriminalliteratur Special Commendation for entire body of work, 1981
  • Private Eye Writers Of America, Shamus Nominee, 1984, 1993, 1995
  • President, Private Eye Writers Of America, 1985
  • Guest of Honor, 8th Festival du Roman et du Film Policiers,Reims, France, 1986
  • The Eye: Lifetime Achievement Award from The Private Eye Writers of America, 1988
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Private Eye Writers Of America, 1988
  • Guest of Honor, La Ville Est Un Roman, Consiel General, Seine Saint-Denis, Paris, France, 1991
  • The Marlowe Award for Lifetime Achievement from The Mystery Writers of America, Southern California, 2002


All novels by Dennis Lynds, unless otherwise specified.



By Dennis Lynds, unless otherwise noted.

  • “It’s Whiskey Or Dames” (August 1962, MSMM; aka “If the Whiskey Don’t, the Women Will; “Slot Machine” Kelly)
  • “The Dreamer” (September 1962, MSMM; “Slot Machine” Kelly)
  • “The Bodyguard” (October 1962, MSMM; “Slot Machine” Kelly)
  • “Accidents Will Happen” (November 1962, MSMM)
  • “Freedom Fighter” (Winter 1962-63, The Literary Review)
  • “The Carrier Pigeon” (February 1963, MSMM; “Slot Machine” Kelly)
  • “The Blue Hand” (April 1963, MSMM; “Slot Machine” Kelly)
  • “The Price of a Dollar” (June 1963, MSMM; “Slot Machine” Kelly)
  • “Harness Bull” (July 1963, MSMM)
  • “Even Bartenders Die” (August 1963, MSMM; “Slot Machine” Kelly)
  • “Death for Dinner” (October 1963, MSMM; “Slot Machine” Kelly)
  • “Nobody Frames Big Sam” (October 1963, AHMM)
  • “The Heckler” (November 1963, MSMM; “Slot Machine” Kelly)
  • “A Better Murder” (January 1964, MSMM)
  • “No Way Out” (February 1964, MSMM; also Best Detective Stories Of The Year 1965; “Slot Machine” Kelly)
  • “Homecoming” (1964, MSMM)
  • “Death, My Love” (1964, Mink Is For A Minx; as John Douglas)
  • “Man on The Run” (1964, Mink Is For A Minx; as Dennis Lynds)
  • “Where The Lines Meet” (March 1964, MSMM; as Walter Dallas)
  • “Silent Partner” (April 1964, AHMM)
  • “The Sinner” (May 1964, AHMM)
  • “Winner Pay All” (May 1964, MSMM; “Slot Machine” Kelly)
  • “The Man Who Lost His Head” (June 1964, MSMM; as Walter Dallas)
  • “Hard Cop” (July 1964, MSMM)
  • “No Loose Ends” (November 1964, MSMM)
  • “Full Circle” (January 1965, MSMM)
  • “The Hero” (May 1965, MSMM; “Slot Machine” Kelly)
  • “A Well-Planned Death” (December 1965, MSMM)
  • “Viking Blood” (April-May 1966, Manhunt; also 1999, Pure Pulp; “Slot Machine” Kelly)
  • “The Dirk” (June 1966, Man From Uncle Magazine)
  • “The Sleeper” (October 1967, Man From Uncle Magazine; as Sheila Lynds)
  • “Climate Of Immorality” (1967, Shell Scott Mystery Magazine)
  • “Success Of A Mission” (April 1968, Argosy; as William Arden)
  • “Hot Night Homicide” (August 1968, MSMM)
  • “No One Likes to be Played for a Sucker” (July 1969, EQMM; First Cases; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “Scream All the Way” (October 1969, AHMM; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “The Savage” (January 1970, Argosy; as William Arden)
  • “The Bizarre Case Expert” (June 1970, EQMM; as William Arden)
  • “Clay Pigeon” (March 1971, Argosy; also October 1986, Espionage; as William Arden)
  • “Long Shot” (July 1972, AHMM; also AHMM Borrowers of the Night; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “Who?” (August 1972, AHMM; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “Occupational Hazard” (September 1972, AHMM; as John Crowe)
  • “The Choice” (February 1973, AHMM; as Mark Sadler)
  • “The Temple of the Golden Horde” (1974, Charlie Chan Mystery Magazine; as Robert Hart Davis)
    Published as a standalone book in 2003Buy this book
  • “The Woman Who Ruined John Ireland” (November 1983, AHMM; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune; aka “Dan Fortune and the Hollywood Caper”)
  • “The Oldest Killer” (November 1983, The Thieftaker Journals; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “Eighty Million Dead” (1984, The Eyes Have It; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “A Reason to Die” (September 1985, New Black Mask #2; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “Killer’s Mind” (June 1986, New Black Mask #6; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “The Motive” (1987, A Matter of Crime #2; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “Homecoming” (1987, Uncollected Crimes)
  • “Black in the Snow” (1988, An Eye for Justice; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “Crime and Punishment” (1988, A Matter of Crime #3; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “The Chair” (1990, Justice for Hire; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “Role Model” (1992, Deadly Allies; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “The Big Rock Candy Mountains” (1992, Crime, Punishment and Resurrection; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “Murder Is Murder (1992, Constable New Crimes 1; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “Angel Eyes” (1994, Deadly Allies #2; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “Culture Clash” (November 1994, EQMM; by Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “A Matter of Character” (1994, Partners in Crime; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “The Chocolate Cat” (1995, Cat Crimes Takes a Vacation; as Michael Collins)
  • “A Death in Montecito” (April 1995, EQMM; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “Can Shoot” (1998, Private Eyes; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “A Part Of History” (1999, Death By Espionage)
  • “Family Values” (2000, Fortune’s World; as Michael Collins; Dan Fortune)
  • “The Horrible, Senseless Murders of Two Elderly Women,” (2001, Fedora)
  • “Disney World” (May 2002, EQMM; Dan Fortune)
  • “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” (2002, Flesh and Blood: Dark Desires; also 2003, Mystery: The Best of 2002; Dan Fortune).
  • “Next-Door Dave” (July 2004, EQMM; Dan Fortune).
  • “Someone” (2004, The Mammoth Book of Roaring Twenties Whodunnits; Dan Fortune)
  • “Dan Fortune Has His Say” (Summer 2005, Thrilling Detective Web Site; Dan Fortune)
    Not really a short story, more an op-ed piece.


  • “Trip West” (August 1951, The Bridge)
  • “Rites of Spring” (Spring 1954, Prairie Schooner)
  • “Man With The Turned-Down Hat” (1954, Embryo)
  • “The Island” (1954, Interim)
  • “Just Once More” (1955, New Voices No. 2)
  • “Yellow Gal” (1957, New World Writing)
  • “Victory” (1958, The Gent)
  • “A Blue Blonde In The Sky Over Pennsylvania” (1965 Best American Short Stories)
  • “The Glass Cage” (1964, The Minnesota Review)
  • “A Night In Syracuse” (1966, Beyond The Angry Black)
  • “Dr. Faustus, With Roses” (1980, December Magazine)
  • “Chimborazo” (1981, Black Messiah)
  • “Triptych” (1981, Western Humanities Review)
  • “Marriage and Death, Solitude and Confusion” (1981, Western Humanities Review)
  • “Night Class” (Winter 1982, Confrontation)
  • “The Country Of The Southern Ute” (1982, South Dakota Review)
  • “The Girl In White” (1982, South Dakota Review)
  • “War And Peace” (1986, Wind/Literary Review)
  • “The Mexican Waiter” (Winter 1986, Carolina Quarterly)
  • “In The Park” (Summer 1986, Connexions)
  • “After Auschwitz” (Spring 1987, South Dakota Review)
  • “Albert Magnus, Father Vitanza, And The Hammer” (Fall 1987, Puerto Del Sol)
  • “Ben” (April 1988, Cimarron Review)
  • “Chiaroscuro” (1988, New Mexico Humanities Review, Vol. 10. No. 2.)
  • “Takeda Shogun” (Spring 1988; South Dakota Review)
  • “The Belgian Woman” (April 1989, Cimarron Review)
  • “Charles Ives And The President Of The United States” (Winter 1990, South Dakota Review)
  • “Still Life With Doc Holliday” (1990, New Frontiers, Vol. II)
  • “The Tonton Macoute” (1992, Scene Magazine Summer Reading Issue)
  • “Etude” (Spring/Summer 1993, Santa Barbara Review)
  • “The French Revolution” (Fall 1993, South Carolina Review)



  • Dennis Lynds
    The official site, still maintained by Gayle Lynds. Features an extensive bibliography, a list of his numerous awards, ordering info on his books, even some of his short stories, and–last time I checked– one of his last stories, the Edgar-nominated “The Horrible, Senseless Murders of Two Elderly Women.”
  • Dennis Lynds, 1924-2005
    The Mystery Community Pays Its Respects…
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Photograph by Chris Gardner. Thanks, Dennis, for everything.


Leave a Reply