Michael Collins was born Dennis Lynds in St. Louis, Missouri, on January 15, 1924. His parents were Archibald John Douglas Lynds, a revolutionary politician who had become an actor, and Gertrude (Hyem) Lynds. The family moved to New York, where Collins attended Brooklyn Technical High School and Cooper Union. He then enrolled in Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College at College Station in 1943. From 1943 to 1946, he was in the United States Army Infantry, serving in the European theater of operations. He was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and three battle stars. Following his military service, he returned to the state of New York for the rest of his education, receiving his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Hofstra University in 1949 and his master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University in 1951.
Collins was married three times: to Doris Flood, 1949-1956; Sheila McErlean, 1961-1985; and Gayle Hallenbeck Stone, 1986. With McErlean, he had two daughters, Katherine and Deirdre. Collins worked at many jobs; he was an actor, farmworker, chemist, executive, and teacher. His primary nonliterary employment, however, was as editor of various chemistry trade journals. Although he claimed that he quit his editorial job and became a full-time writer in 1960, he occasionally returned to editing scientific journals. Collins had a highly productive career in various literary genres. He gained major recognition as a writer of detective fiction with such successful novels as Act of Fear, which introduced the character Dan Fortune. A Dark Power (1968), which he wrote as William Arden, brought forth the series character Kane Jackson and utilized Collins’s interest in business and industry, but the novels about industrial espionage were not commercially successful.
Having lived most of his early life in New York, Collins moved to California. There he found what appeared to be an ideal location in which to work. The direct result was his Buena Costa County mysteries, written as John Crowe. Collins did not, however, desert his New York background. Dan Fortune, as well as Paul Shaw in the mysteries written as Mark Sadler, continued to work out of New York headquarters, although Fortune later moved to Santa Barbara, California, where the last of the series novels take place.
Collins died in August of 2005 at the age of eighty-one. He had been ill for some time and died in San Francisco while en route to visit his hospitalized daughter.