An American mystery writer, he published a series of novels focusing on the character of Detective Michael Shayne. Writing under several pseudonyms, he also published western and romance novels.
He held several odd jobs, including farm hand, freighter deckhand, and California oilfield worker.
He lost an eye in a barbed wire accident when he was a boy.
He married Kathleen Rollins in 1940.
He was the recipient of an Edgar award, an honor named after Edgar Allan Poe.