An American crime writer, he is best known for his novels about the private detective character of Spenser. His popular books were adapted into a television series called Spenser: For Hire.
He served as a soldier in the U.S. Army Infantry in Korea and then earned his Master's degree in English literature from Boston University.
Many of his works demonstrate encyclopedic knowledge of the Boston metropolitan area.
He married Joan H. Parker in 1956. The two had lived in the same Springfield, Massachusetts neighborhood as children.
He created the female detective, Sunny Randall, at the request of actress Helen Hunt.