“Nameless”

Nameless

“My name was mentioned twice in the Examiner, three times in the Times, misspelled once in the latter” – from The Snatch (1971)

Like Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op and Len Deighton’s anonymous spy hero from the 1960s (called ‘Harry Palmer’ when played in the movies by Michael Caine), we have yet to find out the name of the man who narrates Bill Pronzini’s ongoing series of private detective mysteries. However, it feels like we know pretty much everything else there is to know about him, though over time he has changed (not least because, as Pronzini admits, he needed to stop him getting unrealistically old for his profession; and because he just forgot a few details over the decades).

“An immensely likable addition to the roster of private investigators – and one whom we welcome with the heartiest handshake.” – from John Dickson Carr’s review of The Snatch.

pronzini_photo1

Bill Pronzini

In the first book, The Snatch (expanded from the eponymous 1969 short story), he is 47 years old, a veteran of the second World War who served with the police for 15 years before leaving to become a PI when the day-to-day horrors of the job became too much for him. 10 years later and he is a little bit paunchy, has a nasty smoker’s cough and a reputation for honesty – and a growing collection of vintage pulp magazines. Based in San Francisco, his best friend is Lieutenant Eberhardt (the focal character in Illusions), his old partner from when he was still on the force.

Like Chandler, Pronzini based some of the novels on previously published short stories and in recent years the books have usually juggled multiple storylines, both criminous and personal. This has worked increasingly well, starting from Spook when “Nameless” acquired various associates in his firm (notably Jake Runyon and Tamara Corbin) as he got older (61 years old by then) and his private life took several plausible turns into domesticity with his current partner Kerry.

The stories can vary enormously, with books featuring classic locked room puzzles (such as the award-winning Hoodwink), missing persons (Nightcrawlers), a 40-year old ‘cold case’ (Bones) and perhaps most disturbingly the psychological suspense of Shackles, a major turning point in the series, in which our hero survives an ordeal that lasts several months.

The series at various points seemed like it might end, but thankfully “Nameless” has continues to change and thrive. He is a true survivor and, according to his publisher, the longest-serving fictional PI still active. And here’s how:

  1. Pronzini_Snatch_sphereThe Snatch (1971) – reviewed here; based on the eponymous 1969 short story
  2. The Vanished (1973) – review
  3. Undercurrent (1973)
  4. Blowback (1977) – based on the eponymous 1972 short story
  5. Twospot (1978, co-written with Colin Wilcox)
  6. Labyrinth (1980) – based on the short stories ‘A Cold Day in November’ (1969); ‘The Way the World Spins’ (1970); and ‘The Scales of Justice’ (1973)
  7. Hoodwink (1981)Pronzini-Blowback
  8. Scattershot (1982) – based on the short stories: ‘Thin Air’ and ‘A Nice Easy Job’ (both 1979); and ‘A Killing in Xanadu’ (1982)
  9. Dragonfire (1982)
  10. Bindlestiff (1983)
  11. Casefile (1983) – short stories
  12. Quicksilver (1984) – based on the eponymous 1982 novella
  13. Nightshades (1984) – based on the 1982 novella ‘The Ghosts of Pronzini-HoodwinkRagged-Ass Gulch’
  14. Double (1984, co-written with Marcia Muller)
  15. Bones (1985)
  16. Deadfall (1986)
  17. Shackles (1988)
  18. Jackpot (1990)
  19. Breakdown (1991)Pronzini-Labyrinth
  20. Quarry (1992)
  21. Epitaphs (1992) – based on the 1991 short story ‘La Bellezza delle Bellezze’
  22. Demons (1993)
  23. Hardcase (1995)
  24. Sentinels (1996) – based on the 1993 short story ‘Kinsmen’
  25. Spadework (1996) – short stories – reviewed herespadework
  26. Illusions (1997)
  27. Boobytrap (1998)
  28. Crazybone (2000)
  29. Bleeders (2002)
  30. Spook (2003)
  31. Nightcrawlers (2005)
  32. Scenarios (2005) – short storiesPronzini-Savages
  33. Mourners (2006)
  34. Savages (2007)
  35. Fever (2008)
  36. Schemers (2009)
  37. Betrayers (2010)
  38. Camouflage (2011)
  39. Hellbox (2012)
  40. Kinsmen (2012) – novellaPronzini-Femme
  41. Femme (2012) – novella
  42. Nemesis (2013)
  43. Strangers (2014)
  44. Vixen (2015) – based on the 2012 novella ‘Femme’
  45. Zigzag (formerly Quartet) (forthcoming, 2016) – novellas

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2 Responses to “Nameless”

  1. Pingback: THE SNATCH (1971) by Bill Pronzini | Tipping My Fedora

  2. Pingback: THE VANISHED (1973) by Bill Pronzini | Tipping My Fedora

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