An American mystery writer and university professor, he is known for The Toby Peter books and for two other, long-running mystery series. He was a professor of film studies at both Northwestern University and Florida State University.
He graduated from both the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. He published his first novel, Bullet for a Star, in 1977.
He received the Edgar Award for Cold Red Sunrise, a novel featuring the popular character of Inspector Rostnikov.
He was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. With his wife, Enid Perll, he settled in St. Louis, Missouri.
He and Hillary Waugh were both members of the Mystery Writers of America association.