Saturday, July 17, 2010
Betrayers by Pill Pronzini
Bill's Pronzini's Nameless series is not only one of the finest private detective series ever published, it is also the most unique. To a very real extent the books are Bill's autobiography, not in the specific incidents but in the way Nameless feels about living in the world of San Francisco and environs.
In the earliest novels Nameless dealt with the counter-culture many times; then came the Seventies and (god forbid) the "Me" generation; and who can forget the greed decades of the Eighties and Nineties? During the course of these novels Nameless was Shackled, feared he had lung cancer and was bitterly heartbroken at least once. He gained weight, he lost weight. He found solace in his pulp collection and once in a while in the bottle. In other words what Bill has done with his Nameless books is offer us a realistic look at a man of many parts living through the second half of the last century and on into the new one.
And a few books back he once again recreated the Nameless novels by giving more and more on-stage time to the people who work for him. In his newest Nameless, number thirty-five if you're counting, Nameless takes it easier by letting Tamara Cobin and Jake Runyon handle the heavy lifting on the adopted daughter has a box of cocaine in her drawer. These sequences are Bill at his best--powerful and terrifying as only familial problems can be.
Meanwhile Tamara learns that (per the title) she has been betrayed both by a man and herself. The man has been cheating blacks in Tamara's neighborhood. And Jake Runyon naively believes that a bail jumper he's seeking will make for a simple case. And did I mention cat poisoning and maybe a ghost?
Betrayers demonstrates why the MWA made Bill Pronzini a master. His work not only entertains but tells us a great deal about soldiering through this vale of tears--but not without humor to keep us company.