Unusually for a mystery writer " as a breed, they tend to favour things as they are, rather than as they might be " the American author Dennis Lynds, politically, came from left of centre. This did not mean he preached bloody revolution. He wrote to entertain " 'I hope my books excite [and] thrill,' he once said " but he also wrote to inform, especially why losers lose and some winners do not necessarily belong in the ranks of the righteous.
In a writing career that spanned more than four decades, Lynds used at least eight pseudonyms, and in most of his work (even his early pulp stuff) the sins of society " rampant greed, ugly consumerism, want of compassion, bigotry " are targeted and judged. Sometimes the losers are helped through the winning tape.
In the early part of his career Lynds wrote for literary magazines such as New World Writing and the celebrated Prairie Schooner, and four of his short stories were later anthologised in the annual Best American Short Stories volumes (a selection of his mainstream stories was published much later, in 1980, as Why Girls Ride Sidesaddle). His earliest novels, Combat Soldier (1962), a gritty narrative based on his own wartime experience, and Uptown Downtown (1963), sold but did not set the East Coast literary set afire, and like many writers before and since he settled down to produce pulp fiction to pay the bills, in the process learning how to write commercially.
He finally scored a popular and critical success with a private- eye novel featuring the one-armed Dan Fortune, Act of Fear (1967), which won him the coveted Mystery Writers of America 'Edgar' award (after Edgar Allan Poe) for 'Best First Novel'.
Dennis Lynds was born in St Louis, Missouri, in 1924 but was educated at Brooklyn Technical High School, and Cooper Union School, New York, while working as a junior chemist for the Pfizer company. He attended Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College but was called up in 1943, later serving with the 12th Armoured Division in France and gaining a Bronze Star and Purple Heart as well as three battle stars.
Out of the army, he rejoined Pfizer before launching into a career as editor of several technical journals put out by the chemicals industry. At the same time he went back to college, gaining a BA in chemistry from Hofstra University in 1949, and an MA in journalism from Syracuse in 1951.
Lynds began writing detective stories in the early 1960s, much later rationalising his deliberate shift from mainstream to mystery fiction thus:
Suspense novels are no less novels than sonnets are poems. The basic mark of a 'crime' novel is exactly that " it centres on . . . a specific moment of violence at a particular time and place. I chose to write 'crime' novels (because) . . . I think a society and its people can be seen in sharp outline at such moments of violence.
He wrote tough, taut tales mainly for the Mike Shayno Mystery Magazine, some featuring a seedy, crooked detective with one arm who liked working the slot-machines (thus, quite literally, a one-armed bandit) called Slot Machine Kelley. Lynds dreamed up the notion from personal experience: a private detective he knew only used writ- or summons-servers who were …