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Dennis Lynds Papers
SBHC Mss 59  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access Restrictions
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content Notes
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Materials

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Dennis Lynds Papers
    Dates: ca. 1920s-2005
    Collection number: SBHC Mss 59
    Creator: Lynds, Dennis, 1924-2005
    Collection Size: ca. 31 linear feet (55 document boxes, 2 half-size document boxes, 8 cartons, 1 oversize box, 8 audiocassettes, 2 videotapes, and computer files).
    Repository: University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Dept. of Special Collections
    Santa Barbara, CA 93106
    Abstract: Correspondence, manuscript drafts, and research files of Santa Barbara mystery writer Lynds.
    Physical location: : Boxes 1-51 (SRLF); Boxes 52-74 (Annex 2); A/V (Annex 2 - filed by format).
    Languages: English

    Access Restrictions

    Collection is stored off-site; advance notice required for retrieval.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    Dennis Lynds Papers. SBHC Mss 59. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Acquisition Information

    Deposit by Dennis Lynds, via transfer from Bowling Green State University, 2002; directly from Dennis or Gayle Lynds, 2005-2011.


    From Gayle Lynds:
    Dennis Lynds was born on January l5, 1924 in St. Louis, Missouri, where his parents, two English actors, happened to be working. Soon after the birth, the family returned to London, where Dennis would spend his early childhood. When he was six years old, they returned to the United States and eventually settled in New York City, where his father found work on Broadway. Dennis grew up in Brooklyn, where he felt that his British accent and bohemian parents isolated him from his working-class peers. He retreated into his imagination and began to invent exciting stories of action and adventure which were inspired by the novels and plays to which his mother exposed him. However, his parents wanted Dennis to have a more stable life than they had known, and so they encouraged him to pursue a career in science. He attended Brooklyn Technical High School and, after graduation, took classes at the Cooper Union in Manhattan.
    With America's entry into the Second World War, Dennis Lynds enlisted in the Army. Initially, he hoped for a relatively safe job as a technical specialist, and even received some training at Texas A&M. However, he soon found himself on the front lines of combat in France, serving with the Army's 12th Armored Division. He received several medals, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, and after the war, he returned to New York. He attended Hofstra College in Hempstead, NY, received a bachelor's degree in chemistry, and took a position in the laboratories of Charles Pfizer & Co. However, he grew dissatisfied with the life of a research scientist, and decided to pursue a master's degree in journalism at Syracuse University while working as a writer and editor for chemical industry magazines and journals.
    Lynds devoted his spare time to writing short stories and poetry, which began to appear in literary journals in the early l950s. He also worked on a novel based on his wartime experiences, which was finally published in 1962 as Combat Soldier. At the same time, he began selling numerous detective stories to Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, and proved quite popular with readers. He followed up his first novel two years later with another, entitled Uptown, Downtown. Both books were well-received, inspiring Lynds to quit his job, move to Santa Barbara, and try to become a full-time novelist. He paid his way by turning out numerous thrillers based on the Depression-era adventure character the Shadow, which, like all Shadow stories, were published under the house pseudonym "Maxwell Grant."
    Once established in Santa Barbara, Lynds reworked a detective from some of his earlier short stories into a more fully-realized character named Dan Fortune, whom he featured in a novel called Act of Fear. When the book was published in 1967, Lynds decided to use the pen name "Michael Collins," reserving his real name for more literary pursuits. The story, with its philosophical private investigator and a sociological depth rarely seen in genre fiction, proved very popular, and its success enabled Lynds to continue to devote himself to his writing. The following year, he adopted a second pseudonym, "William Arden" for another novel with a different main character, an alias he would also use for a series of mystery tales for the juvenile market.
    Into the 1970s, Lynds continued to release detective novels under the names Michael Collins and William Arden, adding several other pen names for different projects, including "Mark Sadler" for a series featuring the character Paul Shaw and John Crowe for a series set in fictional Buena Costa County, California. 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. He proved to be a prolific writer, usually turning out several full-length novels each year.
    He maintained this pace throughout the 1980s, even producing numerous Dan Fortune short stories as well. But not satisfied to rest on his laurels, Lynds also turned his attention to writing non-genre short stories for literary journals such as the Western Humanities Review and the South Dakota Review. Around this same time, he served as president of the Private Eye Writers of America, and also met aspiring author Gayle Hallenbeck Stone while speaking at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. The two were soon married, and even collaborated on a number of books. Subsequently, Gayle Lynds went on to find success as a novelist in her own right.
    In 1998, Dennis Lynds was awarded the Private Eye Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2003 he also received the Marlowe Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern California chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. However, by this time he was in declining health, and he died suddenly on August 19, 2005, at the age of 81.
    From the Dennis Lynds website:
    Welcome to the large and exciting literary world of Dennis Lynds. Over some five decades, he's published more than 80 novels and won many mystery and literary awards, both nationally and internationally, including the Edgar, awarded by the Mystery Writers of America, the Marlowe Lifetime Achievement Award from MWA, SoCal Chapter, and the Eye Lifetime Achievement Award of the Private Eye Writers of America.
    Under the pen name Michael Collins, his Dan Fortune stories constitute one of the longest-running private detective series ever written, covering nearly four decades beginning in 1967 with Act of Fear and continuing on with publishing contracts into the year 2005.
    To learn more about his work and where it fits into the panoply of books published each year, let's start with his most popular pseudonym, Michael Collins, and the detective that "Collins" created - Dan Fortune.
    Collins is largely credited with being the writer who brought the detective novel into the modern age: "Many critics believe Dan Fortune to be the culmination of a maturing process that transformed the private eye from the naturalistic Spade (Dashiell Hammett) through the romantic Marlowe (Raymond Chandler) and the psychological Archer (Ross Macdonald) to the sociological Fortune (Michael Collins)," according to Private Eyes: 101 Knights by Robert Baker and Michael Nietzel.
    Baker and Nietzel point out a popular phenomenon that began with Collins's first book: the by-now monotonous chant by critics about each new hard-boiled author being "the successor to Hammett," "the new Chandler," and "the heir to Ross Macdonald." John Conquest, in Trouble Is Their Business, says of this critical mantra, "But the only realistic way to look at this is to identify those writers who have clearly redefined the genre as Hammett, Chandler and Macdonald did. To the qualities of naturalism, romanticism and psychology with which, respectively, they moved the genre forward ... can be added at least two other major contributions; Michael Collins (Dennis Lynds) made his books vehicles for sociological observation, while James Crumley introduced empathy and poetry."
    "After naming Lynds the Best Suspense writer of the 1970s," Baker and Nietzel continue, "the Crime Literature Association of West Germany praised him as follows: 'The break in private eye novels started with Michael Collins. At the end of the 1960s, he gave it something new, a human touch needed for years. The novels are much more than entertainment. There is a philosophy behind the detective, and in each book we take a look at a special section of American society.' "
    Explaining that he had more ideas than he knew what to do with, and stories that did not fit Dan Fortune, he created additional series under the pseudonyms Mark Sadler, John Crowe, William Arden, and Carl Dekker, all of which you can read about on this website. For a few years, he published under three of these pseudonyms at the same time at three different publishing houses - Dodd-Mead, Random House, and Bobbs-Merrill. For many years, the New York Times listed his books annually as among the nation's top mysteries. One year, two appeared, listed under two of his pseudonyms.
    As he was writing detective novels, he also published literary books and short stories. Four of his short stories were honored in Best American Short Stories. He was twice short-listed for the Drue Heinz Literature Prize for short stories. Altogether, he's written more than 200 short stories, and his mystery and detective short stories have appeared in Best Crime & Mystery Stories of the Year many times. Twice he's been the guest of honor at literary festivals in France honoring the American detective novel.
    Among his other contributions to the suspense field that show his wide and interesting creative range are thirteen juvenile mysteries under the name William Arden as well as eight "The Shadow" novels.
    In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, Lynds's work took another turn. He began lacing his detective novels with short stories, biographies, and symbolic vignettes expanding the theme and characters of each novel, a technique that recent mystery writers have copied. Critic Richard C. Carpenter discussed these literary innovations in Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers: "The style is more varied, more often breathless and jagged, using italic passages to change tone.... Powerful and memorable, [these new techniques] indicate that Collins has embarked on a new course after some 80 books. Truly he is a writer to be reckoned with."
    There are now 20 Dan Fortune books, the most recent being Fortune's World, published in August 2000. Since then he has published eight short stories in EQMM and various anthologies, the most recent appearing in the anthology Murder In Vegas in March 2005. Also in 2002, a collection of non-Fortune short stories - Spies and Thieves, Cops and Killers - was published.
    For further information about Dennis Lynds life and writings, see his official website at: http://www.dennislynds.com/ 

    Scope and Content Notes

    The Dennis Lynds Papers primarily contain typewritten manuscript drafts of Lynds' works, along with master, galley, and press proofs, and some related material such as handwritten notes, clippings, and correspondence with publishers.


    Series I. Contains the bulk of the present collection, which initially was given to Bowling Green State University but, at Dennis Lynds' request and Bowling Green's agreement, was transferred to UCSB Special Collections in July 2002. A detailed inventory was prepared by Bowling Green for boxers 1-44 and is filed at the beginning of the series. Boxes 1-51.
    Series II: Additions from Dennis Lynds and Gayle Lynds, 2005-2011. Contains additional materials deposited by Dennis and Gayle Lynds in 2005-2007. These presently include subject files, writings, some published materials, and items relating to the 2005 memorial service. Boxes 52-72.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Lynds, Dennis, 1924-2005 -- Archives.

    Related Materials

    The UCSB Oral History Program was conducting interviews with Dennis Lynds at the time of his death. Tapes and transcripts of these interviews, as well as supporting interviews with family and friends, will be available to researchers in the UCSB Libraries' Department of Special Collections.
    Copies of Dennis Lynds' published works have been cataloged separately and may be searched in Pegasus, the UCSB Libraries online catalog.