Bill Pronzini Bibliography

Bill Pronzini is a giant of the modern mystery writing genre and his Nameless Detective series is virtually required reading for any fan of hardboiled detective fiction. The Nameless Detective series is set in San Francisco with the detective proving to be a master at figuring out all types of mysteries with the early books in the series featuring all manner of impossible/locked room type murders.

But he is far more than simply the author of a single series of hardboiled detective stories. He is also responsible for a second series featuring a character named John Quincannon which he co-authors with his wife, Marcia Muller. Add to this an impressively large catalog of stand alone books that are written under his own names as well as a raft of pseudonyms.

In 2008 he was awarded the Grand Master Award by the Mystery Writers of America for his contribution to the industry.​

Bill Pronzini Novels

Author website

Nameless Detective Series

John Quincannon Series

Sabina Carpenter Series (written with Marcia Muller)

Stand-Alone Novels

Brief reviews or synopsis' have been included below to help give you a better idea about the books written by Bill Pronzini. This will include any awards and other information I could gather about each book. Where I believed that a significant event took place in that book I have mentioned it so that the development of the detective and those attached to him are clearly documented.

The Nameless Detective Series

The Snatch (1971)

The first book in the series that introduces the San Francisco detective whose name remains a mystery. He smokes, drinks and has bad health issues. He is also about to end a relationship that leaves him pretty bummed.

But he is also a damn fine detective and that becomes clear as he hits his stride when he is hired by a wealthy man to find his kidnapped son. As with many of these types of stories, the case develops into something more complex and requires some serious detective work.

The book establishes a few interesting things about the detective. The first is his health, which is not great, the second is the end of his relationship with Erika Coates and the last is his impressive collection of pulp fiction magazines.

I have put together a more complete review of the book here.

The Vanished (1973)

The second book in the series carries on soon after the events of the first and continues to develop the way in which the detective operates. He is hired to attempt to track down an army guy who has just been decommissioned from a stint in Germany. His new wife is concerned because he hasn't been heard from after hitting the States again.

This is a case that requires that the detective chase down seemingly innocuous leads and relies on determination and doggedness. Fortunately that's a strong suit for the Nameless detective.

Read the full review of the book here.

Undercurrent (1973)

The nameless detective heads out of San Francisco to follow a man who is suspected of cheating on his wife of only 3 months. When the man is found dead in his hotel room the detective feels compelled to find out why he was murdered.

While this is not exactly a fast-paced thriller it epitomises the solid detective work that the detective becomes widely admired for.

Read the full review of the book here.

Blowback (1977)

The 4th book in the series and the health issues that were dogging the detective in the earlier books have come to a head. He is awaiting the results of tests after being informed that there is a lesion on one of his lungs.

In the meantime he heads up into the Sierra Nevadas to a fishing camp owned by a friend. There he is thrust into a tense situation brought on by jealousy and suspicion. When the murders start the detective is called on by the local police to lend a hand in doing some detective work.

Read the full review of the book here.

Twospot (1978)

This is a collaboration with Collin Wilcox that finds the Nameless Detective joining forces with SFPD homicide detective Frank Hastings.

The story starts with the detective being hired to investigate by a man who wants his mother’s fiancé checked out. The family is successful in the winemaking business and he wants to ensure the man is not simply trying to get a stake in the family business. When murder intervenes the involvement of Detective Frank Hastings begins.

We are treated to shared story narration as the viewpoint of Hastings takes over in one chapter and is then passed on to the detective in the next. It is effective and is a refreshing way to broaden the series.

Labyrinth (1980)

There are a couple of cases to keep the detective busy in this 6th book in the series. He is called up by his friend in the force Eberhardt after his business card was found in the purse of a dead woman and he is also hired to protect a man who has been involved in a motor accident.

Cases become entwined and the nameless detective is called on again to carry on with his usual unrelenting persistence. This is another strong entry in the series that seems to establish the detective as a hard bitten lone wolf investigator.

Hoodwink (1981)

This is one of the really enjoyable books in the series. It makes strong use of Pronzini’s (and the Nameless Detective’s) fondness for pulp fiction. He is at a pulp fiction convention where an actual murder takes place. An obvious suspect is fingered but through some serious sleuthing and by way of the first of two locked-room mysteries, the detective gets to the real murderer.

This is a notable book in the series, firstly, because it deftly produces a couple of fine mysteries that hearken back to the classics. And, secondly, this is the first time the detective meets (and falls for) Kerry, the daughter of a couple of pulp fiction authors.

This was the winner of the first Shamus Award in 1982 for Best Private Investigator Novel.

Scattershot (1982)

In this edition of the series there is a lot going on but just about all of it seems to be conspired to turn against the Nameless Detective. His name is being dragged through the papers for events that were out of his control, he could be in danger of losing his PI license and his newly formed relationship with Kerry is not going as smoothly as he might have hoped.

There are a selection of nicely conceived locked room mysteries put together here that many readers of classic hardboiled detective stories (as well as other mystery readers) will enjoy greatly.

Dragonfire (1982)

The 9th book in the series marks yet another momentous occasion in the Nameless Detective series. He and his friend Lieutenant Eberhardt are gunned down in the home of Eberhardt while enjoying a quiet Sunday evening barbecue. While Eberhardt lies in hospital in a coma, the detective has less severe injuries and is released from hospital after a short stay.

Not surprisingly, the story becomes a case of a man on a revenge-seeking mission. Nameless wants to find out who it was who shot them but the trail leads him straight into the dangerous underworld of organized crime. It also leads to some pretty confronting conclusions when all of the dust starts to settle down.

Bindlestiff (1983)

The Nameless Detective has managed to get his PI license back again after it was briefly suspended. He is also on the mend both physically and mentally after the shots he took in the course of Dragonfire.

The case that he takes on comes for a woman who believes she has seen her father in a photograph published in the newspaper. She wants to hire Nameless to find him so that an inheritance might be properly divided. The problem is that the man rides the rails as a hobo – a bindlestiff. And that means chasing him down somehow.

There are also noises made by Eberhardt, who has left the police force after he was shot, to join the detective in the PI business.

Casefile (1983)

This is the first book of short stories featuring the Nameless Detective.

Quicksilver (1984)

The partnership between the Nameless Detective and Eberhardt appears now to be a fait accompli with plans to buy a new office going ahead. Nameless is not confident that working with his best friend is such a great idea.

The detective is hired by a Japanese woman who has been receiving gifts from an unknown admirer and she wants to find out who and why. His investigates quickly develops into a far more complex one which leads to a closer looks at the Japanese-American community.

Nightshades (1984)

In the 12th book the Nameless Detective is asked by an insurance company to investigate a death that took place in a small northern California town. Accompanied by Kerry, he heads to the Gold Rush town of Musket Creek and encounters a town that is inhabited by a group who are extremely wary of outsiders. Developers are looking to turn the place into a tourist attraction and this is being met by strong and violent objections.

Double (1984)

This is a joint effort between Pronzini and his wife, author Marcia Muller. The Nameless Detective teams up with Sharon McCone to solve a case.

The story is told in alternating chapters by the Nameless Detective and Marcia Muller’s PI Sharon McCone. They happen to have met because they are attending a private investigator’s convention.

An investigation is sparked when a former mentor of McCone’s falls to his death in an apparent suicide. Rather than leave it to the police to solve, the two PI’s join forces to work out what is going on.

Bones (1985)

This is another of the books in the series to feature locked-room mysteries, one of the favorite scenarios of the pulp fiction writers of the past. In this case the detective is hired to investigate a suicide of a man that took place over thirty years earlier. The man was a pulp fiction writer himself and he died in a locked room.

In the course of the investigation the city is rocked by an earthquake which uncovers a skeleton that is significant to the case. Also making a return once again is the former pulp fiction author Russell Dancer (The Vanished and Hoodwink).

In the detective’s personal life, he is finding it difficult to hold his tongue while around his new business partner and old friend, Eberhardt, who has fallen in lust with the bountifully chested Wanda.

Deadfall (1986)

The detective agency being run by the Nameless Detective and his partner, Eberhradt, is doing it a tough with jobs a little hard to find. While out on a job he witnesses the shooting of lawyer Leonard Purcell. He is hired by Purcell’s partner to investigate and this leads him to the death of Purcell’s brother six months earlier. This death was as a result of a fall off a cliff.

What follows is a complex series of events that entices the detective one into a more dangerous investigation than he first expects.

There is a significant development in the detective’s personal life during this book. The ex-husband of Kerry Wade makes an appearance and has decided he wants her back, having found God and of the belief that their divorce was invalid. This forces Nameless to come up with a carefully thought out solution.

Shackles (1988)

This is a significant book in the Nameless Detective series. A man who has been holding a grudge against Nameless abducts him off the straight and takes him up to a remote shack. There, he chains the detective up with the intention of leaving him there to die a slow and horrible death.

The bulk of the story takes us through the detective’s ordeal along from the physical pain of being chained up to the mental torture that he endures. The ordeal that he goes through is something that changes him as a detective and person and is referred to in many of the books that follow.

The book was a finalist for the 1989 Anthony Award for Best Mystery.

Jackpot (1990)

The Nameless Detective is asked to talk to the brother of a man who died in an apparent suicide. The man had just won $200,000 in Lake Tahoe and it seems unlikely that he would then take his own life.

His investigation, as it so often does, uncovers a lot more than was first expected and doesn’t paint the dead man in a particularly flattering light. Was the man’s windfall good fortune or some type of underhanded scam in which luck played no part?

This is the first book following the harrowing ordeal of Shackles and the detective is still feeling the after effects. To make matters worse, Eberhardt is having relationship problems which makes life very tense in the office.

Breakdown (1991)

The 18th book in the Nameless Detective series and there is still a hangover effect from the events of Shackles. The result is a far darker mood from which the story is told. The detective is not quite his usual self and this makes him more aggressive and prone to reacting badly to adversaries.

He starts out investigating the events of a hit and run accident. But his investigation is interrupted in no uncertain terms by a murder and the disappearance of a witness. He also uncovers a people smuggling operation.

Quarry (1992)

An aging farmer hires the Nameless Detective to get to the bottom of what is troubling his daughter. She has quit her successful job and returned home, quiet and withdrawn and completely non-communicative and it is up to the detective to try to find out what has caused the change in personality. What he finds is evidence that she has been subjected to some kind of psychological trauma.

What he finds out is that she is being dogged by someone who is trying to make her life miserable. That’s all Nameless needs to jump on his trail. His ultimate plan is to turn the hunter into the hunted.

Meanwhile Eberhardt is driving both his fiancé and the Nameless detective nuts with his out of control wedding plans.

Epitaphs (1992)

The Italian heritage of the Nameless Detective comes into play in Epitaphs when an old Italian man who plays bocce in the park recognises the detective as a fellow countryman. He asks the detective to look into the disappearance of his granddaughter. When he takes a closer look he discovers that the woman has left her job yet is still living in a manner that suggests a substantial pay packet. The unexpected murder of someone close to the woman he is looking for sends him spinning into yet another dangerous chase.

On the personal front things are not going well in the partnership between Nameless and Eberhardt with a suggestion that their business relationship should be dissolved and, quite possibly, so should their long-standing friendship.

Demons (1993)

In this 22nd book of the Nameless Detective series we find the detective agreeing to take on the type of case that he doesn’t particularly enjoy – that of the cheating spouse. This time though the wife does not want him to be caught in the act but, instead, wishes that he would come to his senses and return home to his family.

The woman who is responsible for the man’s obsession has a history of attracting men before dumping them. This time she has gone missing and the cause could be any number of former love interests.

On the personal front, the working relationship between Eberhardt and Nameless has completely broken down. To top things off, it appears that Kerry, his longtime girlfriend, has started seeing another man. It would seem that there are many demons to be dealt with in this episode.

Hardcase (1995)

This is another significant book in the overall Nameless story. At the start of the book Nameless is getting married to longtime love interest Kerry.

The case that he takes on involves a young woman named Melanie Ann Aldrich who is looking for the identity of her parents. She has recently found out that she was adopted and now that her adoptive parents are dead wants to track down her birth parents. It's a case that will lead the detective to an evil man with a history of rape and violence.

Another big event in the Nameless story is his realisation that he needs to move with the times and introduce computers to the business. He decides he needs to get an assistant who has computer knowledge and interviews Tamara Corbin for the job. 

Spadework (1996)

This is the second published book of short stories. This is a collection of 15 short stories featuring the Nameless Detective. The book was published by Crippen and Landru and was published on the 25th anniversary of the release of The Snatch. 

Sentinels (1996)

​The disappearance of a sensible and completely reliable college student is the trigger for this case undertaken by the Nameless Detective. A mother contacts the detective in a worried state because her daughter has gone missing whilst driving to college. When he retraces the young woman’s steps he finds himself in the small town of Creekside in Northern California, the last place he can confirm that she was seen. What he finds is a very closed community who are overly keen for him to leave their town.

​The working relationship between the detective and his computer whizz office assistant Tamara Corbin continues to develop and grow in this book. He is moving further away from the lone wolf of the earlier books in the series and becoming a more fully complete character.

This was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best Novel.

Illusions (1997)

The events from Sentinels are very much to the fore as Illusions opens and dominates the darkest thoughts of the Nameless Detective. He is investigating the suicide of Eberhardt, a man he once considered a good friend but who died bitter and estranged from virtually everyone.

While dealing with this personal ordeal he is also hired be a respectable businessman to track down his wife who has been missing for more than 3 years. Although he is successful in finding her, an unexpected and shocking death soon follows.

The title of the book is extremely relevant to this story. We have perception of people based on what they want to reveal to us but in some cases they are only illusions.

Boobytrap (1998)

In this case the detective does not actually take on a case. Instead he is heading off on a much-needed break, a fishing holiday up to a clear mounting lake. The cabin that he has organized to stay in belongs to a friend of a friend, a lawyer who simply asks that the detective also take his wife a son with him as a favor.

The problem is, the lawyer is the target of an ex-con who is seeking revenge. The ex-con's speciality is bombs and he likes to set them up as boobytraps.

The book won the 1999 Shamus Award for Best Novel.

Crazybone (2000)

​The Nameless Detective is working on a job for an insurance company that is trying to raise its profile as a caring and understanding company by following up on why a bereaved widow would refuse to accept a $50,000 payout. Although the premise is unlikely, he quickly discovers that there is far more to the woman than first meets the eye.

This entry in the series is notable for the first appearance of Emily who will become his and Kerry's adopted daughter.

Bleeders (2002)

This is another game-changer for Nameless and stands out as the pivotal book in the series. He barely escapes death at the hands of a stone killer and seriously considers chucking in the detecting business.

Spook (2003)

The detective is ready to step back from the pressures of being a one-man investigative business by taking on a new investigator to join Tamara in the business. He hires former Seattle cop Jake Runyon.

The case that they start off with involves tracking down the identity of a homeless man who was recently shot execution-style in the doorway were he slept rough at night. It gives Runyan a chance to settle in to his new job.

Scenarios (2005)

This is the 3rd book of Nameless Detective short stories.

Nightcrawlers (2005)

With three main characters in the detective agency, we are treated to three separate investigations. This only triples the action and provides a broader viewpoint from Tamara, Jake and Bill.

There have been a series of gay-bashings at night on the streets of San Francisco and Jake Runyon has been called in to investigate when his estranged son becomes involved.

Meanwhile Tamara is doing her own spot of fieldwork as a chance to escape the office and feel like a more hands-on part of the agency. But things go horribly wrong and it is up to the detective (Bill) to clean up the mess.

Mourners (2006)

In Mourners, Bill takes on an unusual case in which a woman hires the detective agency to follow her husband who has started attending the funerals of women he apparently did not know. The women had all been the victims of violent deaths but don’t appear to have been connected to this man.

On the personal front, Jake is still coming to terms with the death of his wife while Tamara has to deal with the end of her long-term relationship with her boyfriend.

The entire story is incredibly well told and is tied together in fine style. The book also ends in another momentous event that promises to keep the series moving forward in a way that will develop all of the characters even more fully.

Savages (2007)

Fever (2008)

Schemers (2009)

The book was a finalist for the 2010 Shamus Award for Best Novel.

Betrayers (2010)

Camouflage (2011)

Hellbox (2012)

Hellbox is a rather harrowing outing that starts with Bill and wife Kerry enjoying a getaway in the foothills of the Sierras. They have decided to buy a second property, a place where they might be able to relax and enjoy the quiet life and this trip would help them to decide whether the property they have found would be most suitable.

Things go south when Kerry decides to go out for a bushwalk as a way to pass a sunny afternoon. She finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and is abducted by a local who is in the process of exacting a vicious form of revenge.

Bill returns from his own day of solitude which was spent fishing to find their cabin empty. As the afternoon wears on into evening and with no sign of Kerry, he begins to grow increasingly concerned. This concern ultimately gets scaled up into an all-out search for his wife that involves the help of Jake Runyon who drives in from San Francisco and Tamara who works from their office.

The story recalls the desperation that was experienced in the earlier book in the Nameless Detective series, Shackles.

Nemesis (2013)

The book was a finalist for the 2014 Shamus Award for Best Novel.

Strangers (2014)

Vixen (2015)

Zigzag (2016)

This book consists of 2 novellas along with 2 more short stories.

Endgame (2017)