Michael Haskins

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Book

(When Patti Abbott asked me to write a blog about a book I thought had been forgotten, it didn’t take me but a nanosecond to know what book it would be about. When I pulled it off the bookshelf, I realized I couldn’t explain it without going into explanation of the author, because the book affected my teenage years and the author a good part of the rest of my life.)

Writer Dennis Lynds had many claims to fame in his lifetime; being one of the most prolific writers in America has to be the one that will remain on the record books for years to come.

If you are new to the mystery genre, the name may not be recognizable. But Dennis wrote under many names, the most popular being Michael Collins, the creator of the Dan Fortune series, but there were others: William Arden, John Crowe, Mark Sadler, to name only a few.

I discovered Dennis Lynds while I was a senior in high school and his book, UPTOWN DOWNTOWN, Signet Paperback 1963, had just come out and it affected the direction my life would take. It was the early ‘60s, the beginning of the end of the Beat Generation and the first inkling of the hippie movement and time of teenage angst.

UPTOWN DOWNTOWN is a story about Dave Garber, an up-and-coming executive in NYC, but at night another Dave Garber emerges, one who strums a guitar in Village bars, frequents free-and-easy parties in dim, beatnik attics.

The book fully portrays that time when writers and artists, experiments in drugs and sex and jazz, were all mixed together and you had an enthusiasm for life and living that was dying a slow death. It mirrored my weekend trips to coffeehouses on Beacon Hill in Boston.

UPTOWN DOWNTOWN influenced my decisions at the time, because I wanted to be a writer and part of a living movement, even if it was fading from the mainstream. The dropout attitude of the hippies held no appeal, where the live-life-to-the-fullest mantra of Dave Garber and the Beats did. The weekend coffeehouse-poetry readings I attended were right out of UPTOWN DOWNTOWN and I latched onto the tail end of beatnik movement, and dropped into life instead of dropping out.

Almost 20-years later I met Michael Collins at the mid-March writers social hosted by The Mysterious Bookstore in Beverly Hills – since then, it has moved to Westwood and no longer holds the social because it conflicts with other literary events in LA. I was a fan and asked to have my Dan Fortune books signed. We got to talking and I discovered Michael Collins was really Dennis Lynds; I did not connect the man and UPTOWN DOWNTOWN at the time. I did guess that he took the name Michael Collins because of the Irish rebel and leader in the rebellion against the English in 1916 and he laughed and said, “Yes, that’s why I took the name.”

We became friends and Dennis was always supportive of my writing. We attended Mystery Writer of America, SoCal, meetings and socials at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in the San Fernando Valley, often sitting in the bar afterward. When I discovered why the name Dennis Lynds sounded familiar, I told him and got a thank you and a smile.

Dennis was more than a friend, he was someone I looked up to. As Michael Collins, he was able to turn Dan Fortune, a one-armed private detective, into a successful and popular character and series, when the rest of us were writing about superheroes without limitations!

He did it with well-written, well-plotted stories that often asked hot-topic questions and just as often gave the answers; and he did it with some of the best writing in the genre.

I moved to Key West in 1996, but kept in touch with Dennis and his wife Gayle, and we often emailed back and forth about my sailing trips to Cuba and how he hoped to someday visit Havana and maybe meet me there.

In 1998 Hurricane Georges attacked the Lower Keys and blew my two-story floating home out to sea, with my more than 1,000-book library and worldly possession on it, never to be found. Think of it as a one-bedroom house on a barge.

I mentioned it to Dennis in an email and told him how I was starting over and had bought a sailboat to live on. A few weeks later, I received a plastic covered copy of UPTOWN DOWNTOWN in the mail. He had remembered after all these years!

My library is almost rebuilt, now that I am back in a house on solid ground, and books written by Dennis Lynds, no matter what name he used, sit on the shelf above my computer screen, so that I often think of him when I am writing. In between the hardback copies of books, bearing the name Collins, Sadler, Crowe and Arden is the small, plastic covered paperback, UPTOWN DOWNTWON, and it stares down overpowering all the others because it reminds of my youth and how it, and its author, helped direct me to where I am today.

Dennis wrote most everyday for eight hours, or more. How I envy him for that. He was driven and loved writing. And that paid off, because so many of us love reading him.

For more information on Dennis, his life and his writing, go to http://www.dennislynds.com/.

Michael Haskins

1 comment:

Barbara Martin said...

This was an interesting post, as well as a tribute to a friend. Thank you for sharing.

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