“Mac” Robinson

Created by Thomas B. Dewey
Pseudonyms include Tom Brandt and Cord Wainer

“It may be that the recent white Anglo-Saxon Christian struggle to canonize the informer will be lost in the rivers and back streets of America, where ‘rat’ is still spelled with three letters and the only way to save your life is to lose it. The thing about a code, whether you go for its objectives or not, is that it works. When it stops working, it stops being a code.”
You’ve Got Him Cold

The missing link between Philip Marlowe and Lew Archer, Thomas B. Dewey‘s “MAC” ROBINSON (usually just referred to as “Mac”) was the original compassionate eye, setting the stage for Archer, Dan Fortune, Bill Pronzini’s Nameless, et al — and one of the most must-read private eyes you’ve never heard of.

But don’t read the Mac books for their historical significance. Read ’em because they’re great, displaying a rare sensitivity for their time. Mac’s turf was Chicago, and he went down those mean streets (the actual title of one of his novels) toting a sensitivity and empathy, particularly for young people, that stood in stark contrast to the popular P.I. psycho-dramas of that post-war era. He was obviously inspired by Chandler, but the sharpness of Marlowe’s vision was replaced by a gentler irony, and although he certainly could could handle himself when push came to shove, he also displayed a vulnerability and quiet intelligence that was surprising for the genre–then and now.

He was no Mike Hammer, out to set the world ablaze–that’s for sure. As he puts it in Draw the Curtain Close (1947), the first novel in the series: “Call me Mac… I’m just a guy. I go around and get in jams and then try to figure a way out of them. I work hard. I don’t make very much money and most people insult me one way or another. I’m thirty-eight years old, a fairly good shot with small arms, slow-thinking but thorough and very dirty in a clinch.”

There were seventeen books in all in the series, a snapshot of America that took Mac from the raw, rough post-war era all the way through to the beginning of the seventies, and yet his basic decency and compassion rarely wavered.

Dewey also created  a series featuring Pete and Jeannie Schofield, which followed a private eye who solved his cases with the aid of his wife, and another series featuring hotel owner and wannabe private dick Singer Batts.


  • “I haven’t found a Mac novel that I didn’t enjoy.”
    — J. Kingston Pierce




  • “The Big Job” (1965, The Saint’s Mystery Magazine)



  • October 24, 2021
    THE BOTTOM LINE: Tougher than Archer, less cartoony than Hammer, one of the great unsung post-war eyes. A definite Hall of Famer.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

Leave a Reply