Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Bit More on Bill Pronzini's Books

Dave and I tend to read very different sets of mysteries, and when Pronzini was pronounced a Grand Master last week by the Mystery Writers of America, I had to head to Dave's shelves and beg for "something to read" from his Pronzini collection. What I wanted to start with was one of the "Nameless Detective" series, of course -- "nameless" in that in the entire 32-book series, nobody calls the narrator/protagonist by name. So even though the reader's entirely in this guy's head, book after book, there's no name to separate him from you. It's a neat notion, and to sustain it for 32 books is quite a feat.

So Dave issued me a copy of BREAKDOWN in hardcover first edition, never read -- Dave tends to read the softcovers when he can, protecting his gems, a wise option -- and I spent the next three days holding the book carefully in a snug V shape, peering down the pages to read the tale without making the binding any less crisp or tight. (The things you do when you're married to a serious collector...) And I've got to say that in spite of Turkey Day interference and a bit of editing work that had to be done, I barely set the book aside. It's a gripping San Francisco noir work, and if it's less directly bloody than, say, a Jan Burke or a John Lescroart, it's nonetheless a true California gumshoe mystery, where detective work and the darkness of the narrator's personal demons are what push the plot (along with a few deaths of course). If you need a reminder of the plot/placement, this one is a sequel to the narrator's experience with being kidnapped and held hostage in grim conditions -- and hinges on what a "coyote" is in northern California. I found the narration to be sort of a serious version of Donald Westlake's (East Coast) novels: no capers, but similar attitudes among the characters, I thought. And Westlake's career resembles Pronzini's in the movement among pen names and characters, as well as longevity.

I'd read it again (for perspective, BREAKDOWN is from 1991 and is number 18 in the Nameless Detective series), but I've got others to explore first, including some of Marcia Muller's books (Muller is Pronzini's second wife; they've collaborated on a few books too), plus Dave's own personal favorite from this author's recent work, GUN IN CHEEK (he keeps selling our copies and we have to restock). I also want to enjoy a holiday browse through SNOWBOUND/GAMES, which is an omnibus Pronzini with an intro by Muller and was just issed; Pronzini also is due to bring out SAVAGES this year, which my resources lists as Nameless Detective number 31 (skipping the short story collection that swells the following list to 32). There's another Nameless Detective title scheduled for March 2008, too, FEVER.

Here's the Nameless Detective list. Let us know which ones you think are the best.

Nameless Detective Novels

1. The Snatch, Random House, (1971).
2. The Vanished, Random House, (1972).
3. Undercurrent, Random House, (1973).
4. Blowback, Random House, (1977).
5. Twospot, (With Collin Wilcox), Putnam, (1978).
6. Labyrinth, St. Martin's, (1980).
7. Hoodwink, St. Martin's, (1981).
8. Scattershot, St. Martin's, (1982).
9. Dragonfire, St. Martin's, (1982).
10. Bindlestiff, St. Martin's, (1983).
11. Quicksilver, St. Martin's, (1984).
12. Nightshades, St. Martin's, (1984).
13. Double (With Marcia Muller), St. Martin's, (1984).
14. Bones, St. Martin's, (1985).
15. Deadfall, St. Martin's, (1986).
16. Shackles, St. Martin's, (1988).
17. Jackpot, Delacorte, (1990).
18. Breakdown, Delacorte, (1991).
19. Quarry, Delacorte, (1992).
20. Epitaphs, Delacorte, (1992).
21. Demons, Delacorte, (1993).
22. Hardcase, Delacorte, (1995).
23. Sentinels, Carroll & Graf, (1996).
24. Illusions, Carroll & Graf, (1997).
25. Boobytrap, Carroll & Graf, (1998).
26. Crazybone, Carroll & Graf, (2000).
27. Bleeders, Carroll & Graf, (2002).
28. Spook, [Carroll & Graf, (2003).
29. Scenarios (short stories), Forge Books, (2005).
30. Nightcrawlers, Forge Books, (2005).
31. Mourners, Forge Books, (2006).
32. Savages, Forge Books, (2007).

1 comment:

david kanell said...

I was pleased to read about Bill Pronzini's recent award as a Grand Master of Mystery by the Mystery
Writers of America. It was long overdue and well deserved. One of the most important and difficult books to find is the book Pronzini wrote with his wife Marcia Muller is the book " 1001 Midnights. The Afecionado's Guide To Mystery And Detective Fiction". Arbor House, 1986. 879 Pages. 1001 plot summaries, author biographies, and critical evaluations of classic and important crime and espionage novels. From the Nameless Detective to Mystery Criticism Bill Pronzini should be on your reading list.