(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Michael Collins is the pseudonym under which Dennis Lynds wrote a hard-boiled detective series and juvenile mysteries, among other works. Lynds used various other pen names to write many other mysteries and novels. The novels of the Dan Fortune series are probably Collins’s most original works. The narrator-protagonist of these novels is often compared to the hard-boiled detectives of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross Macdonald. However, although Dan Fortune is a maverick, he lacks the violent, brutal approach to his work characteristic of the hard-boiled detective. Essentially nonaggressive, even passive at times, he is marked by his compassion and vulnerability. Fortune is a more rounded and credible character than most detectives in this genre.

Strongly competing with the protagonist for primary importance in the early Fortune novels is the setting, the Chelsea district on New York’s East Side. Collins gave the reader a realistic view of this area, its residents, and the conditions there, which contribute to the many crimes. The result is a sociological study of and commentary on the living conditions that shape the characters, who engage in violence and commit crimes. So pervasive is the sociological emphasis that critics have termed his later novels sociodramas. Collins moved Fortune from Chelsea to Santa Barbara in his fourteenth novel, but his protagonist’s character remained the same, and the California landscape played an...

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(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Ashley, Mike. The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Modern Crime Fiction. New York: Graf and Graf, 2001. Discusses the plot structure of Collins’s novels, describing them as resembling “pyramids.” Notes that Gayle Stone, Collins’s third wife, was also a writer and collaborated with Collins on two novels.

Baker, Robert A., and Michael T. Nietzel. Private Eyes: One Hundred and One Knights. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1985. Contains a brief biography of Collins, as well as a synopsis with an analysis of both the Dan Fortune novels through Freak and the Mark Sadler novels through Touch of Death. The authors see Fortune as the sociological private eye who succeeded the “naturalistic Spade,” the “romantic Marlowe,” and the “psychological Archer.”

Carpenter, Richard. “Michael Collins.” In Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers, edited by John M. Reilly. 2d ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985. Cites the complex plots and the indeterminate and ambiguous endings. Discusses Collins’s quest to know, placing him in a tradition of existentialist heroes.

Conquest, John. Trouble Is Their Business: Private Eyes in Fiction, Film, and Television. New York: Garland, 1990. Focuses on the Dan Fortune character, especially his “wound,” and notes that Fortune brings “compassion, ambiguity, philosophy, intuition, and complexity” to the private eye persona.

De Andrea, William L. Encyclopedia Mysteriosa. New York: Prentice Hall, 1994. Notes that Lynd’s choice of the name “Michael Collins” was made because of his interest in Michael Collins, the Irish revolutionist, and praises Collins for his melding of a political point of view with a solid plot.

Geherin, David. The American Private Eye: The Image in Fiction. New York: Ungar, 1985. In “The Compassionate Eye,” Geherin discusses the first eleven Dan Fortune novels, focusing on the symbolic use of Fortune’s missing arm, the novel as sociodrama, the quest for justice, the New York setting of the novels, and the lack of humor and sex in the novels.