An American-Canadian writer of hardboiled detective novels, he is most famous for his Private Eye Lew Archer books. The first novel in the series, The Moving Target, was published in 1949.
He attended the University of Michigan and earned a Phi Beta Kappa key as well as a Ph.D. in literature.
His real name was Kenneth Millar. He wrote under numerous pen names, including John MacDonald and Ross MacDonald.
He married Margaret Sturm in 1938; they later had a daughter.
He has been called the heir to Dashell Hammett.