(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...

(The entire section is 401 words.)