Bill Pronzini Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Bill Pronzini’s Nameless detective novels move the hard-boiled detective genre toward a new kind of authenticity. To the unsentimental realism of Dashiell Hammett, the descriptive power of Raymond Chandler, and the psychological depth of Ross Macdonald, all meant to transcend the artificial atmosphere of the traditional English detective story, Pronzini adds attention to everyday human problems—emotional as well as physical. Nameless struggles with health concerns of varying seriousness and also spends a modest but significant portion of his narrative seeking stable female companionship. He ages and on occasion gets depressed. In short, Nameless is revealed in a way that would be utterly foreign to a character such as Hammett’s Sam Spade or Chandler’s Philip Marlowe.

Pronzini also seeks heightened authenticity, largely shedding the tough-guy image associated with the hard-boiled genre. To be sure, Nameless is tough. He doggedly seeks the truth and unhesitatingly puts himself into risky situations. Nameless eschews violence and sarcasm, however, and he is willing, at least occasionally, to wear his heart on his sleeve. Indeed, Nameless does nothing to hide the fact that he cares about people and is generally sympathetic. He cultivates a good working relationship with the police and with few exceptions stays on the right side of the law. Pronzini also occasionally works in some of the banality and drudgery involved with real-life private...

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(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Gorman, Ed, Lee Server, and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. The Big Book of Noir. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1998. Pronzini’s contribution to this work reveals his personal relationship to this subgenre.

Landrum, Larry. American Mystery and Detective Novels. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1999. A prolific author and critic, Pronzini pops up in many contexts throughout this work.

Lauer, George. “Murder They Wrote: Husband and Wife Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller Are Major Characters in the Mystery-Writing Genre.” The Press Democrat, March 21, 2005, p. D1. This profile of the authors describes their separate histories and paths to writing, their writing lives together, and their future aspirations. Contains lists of their publications and considerable biographic information.

Muller, Marcia, and Bill Pronzini. “Q&A: Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini.” Interview by Andi Schecter. Library Journal 131, no. 12 (July, 2006): 54. Interview with the married couple discusses their collaborative work with Nameless-McCone books. They discuss the creative opportunities presented by writing nonseries novels.

Pronzini, Bill. Gun in Cheeck: A Study of “Alternative” Crime Fiction. New York: The Mysterious Press, 1982. Humorous look at the worst in crime fiction. Shows what Pronzini considers good and bad writing.

Pronzini, Bill. Introduction to Private Eyes: One Hundred and One Knights, A Survey of American Detective Fiction, 1922-1984, by Robert A. Baker and Michael T. Nietzel. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1985. In his introduction to this work, Pronzini provides insights into what he believes a private eye should be and how a detective should function in a novel.

Scaggs, John. Crime Fiction. New York: Routledge, 2005. While Pronzini’s work is not directly discussed, this fascinating source has a valuable chapter, “The Hard-Boiled Mode,” that provides context for the study of Pronzini’s Nameless detective.