“This is a typical Nameless mystery: engrossing, tightly plotted and thought provoking. Pronzini is one of the modern masters of the Dashiell Hammett–style hard-boiled detective story, and his appeal to old-school crime fiction readers remains high.”
Bill Pronzini has been nominated for, or won, every prize offered to crime fiction writers and he continues to show his skill with America’s longest-running detective series. The Nameless Detective faces a dangerous femme fatale in the latest from the master of mystery: VIXEN (Forge Hardcover; June 23, 2015; $24.99).
Nameless is hired by Cory Beckett, a beautiful young woman, to find her missing brother, Kenneth. It appears that he has fled San Francisco in a drug-induced panic to avoid the charge of stealing a necklace from his employer’s wife. But when the agency finds and questions the missing brother Cory Beckett’s motives come into question and the case takes on darkly sinister complexities.
As Nameless and his agency follow the mystery through a series of shocking twists and turns Cory is revealed as a deadly, designing woman who will stop at nothing. But the detectives do not realize until the end how devilish Cory Beckett really is, a femme fatale who has brought something new to the species—new, and terrible.
Mystery readers will find a fresh take in every masterful contribution from Pronzini, and VIXEN continues the trend with another addictive tale. Follow Booklist’s advice and “Never, ever miss a Nameless case.”
Praise for Bill Pronzini
“There is no living writer whose work more faithfully embodies the spirit of classic private-eye fiction than Bill Pronzini. It is classy, classy noir storytelling.”
—The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Pronzini is a pro at PI fiction: he never cheats on the reader,
respecting the conventions of the hard-boiled detective stories
and puzzle mysteries he employs so well.”
“Pronzini constructs his sturdy plot with top-quality materials.”
—The New York Times Book Review on Nightcrawlers
“One of the best in the mystery-suspense field”
—The Washington Post Book World
“«There isn’t a significant award for crime fiction that Pronzini hasn’t won,
and this is a fine example of his work. His core of protagonists continues
to evolve, his plotting is always masterful, and his shifting narrative
viewpoints add additional context to the work.”
— Booklist, Starred Review on Nemesis
“«Can doing first-rate work as consistently as
Pronzini really be as effortless as he makes it seem?”
—Kirkus, Starred Review on Camouflage
BILL PRONZINI has been nominated for, or won, every prize offered to crime fiction writers, including the 2008 Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. It is no wonder, then, that Detroit Free Press said of him, "It's always nice to see masters at work. Pronzini's clear style seamlessly weaves [storylines] together, turning them into a quick, compelling read." He lives and writes in California, with his wife, the crime novelist Marcia Muller.
1. There is a rumor that the Nameless series may be coming to an end. Any truth to that?
Vixen may or may not be the last Nameless novel. Depends on several factors. In any event, one more Nameless book will definitely be published next year: Zigzag, a collection of two original novellas and two short stories.
2. Where were you in the series when you realized that Nameless was to become the most important element of your career?
I’ve been writing Nameless short stories since 1967, novels since 1971, so the series has always been the major focus of my career.
3. Many private detective series pay little serious attention to the cities they're set in. Was it a conscious decision to make San Francisco a key aspect of many of the books?
I believe a strong sense of place is an important component in fiction, and thus strive to make the settings in my novels as accurate and cinematic as I can. A character, in effect, as well developed as the human ones. I’ve lived in San Francisco and environs for most of my life, know them well; the city and other northern California locales lend themselves perfectly to the series because of their geographical, ethnic, and historical diversity.
4. Is it fair to say that the Nameless novels are also a kind of spiritual autobiography of one William John Pronzini?
I like to think of the series as a sort of ongoing biography of a man who happens to be a detective. As to it being a spiritual autobiography… well, to some extent, yes. Nameless’s ethnicity, likes, dislikes, opinions, attitudes, etc. are all pretty much mine. But he’s an all-around better person – the kind of man I aspire to be, you might say.
5. As Edward Grainger pointed out in his excellent review of your great new novel Vixen, the Nameless novels have kept their vitality and modernity yet a few reviewers called them "retro." I mean this sincerely--I've never been able to decipher what they mean by that. You deal with contemporary themes in contemporary settings and in classic private
detective style. So do ninety per cent of all other p.i. writers. But why are yours supposedly "retro?"
I suppose it’s because my books mostly deal with crime on a small, personal scale, as did the early PI novels. No serial killer bloodbaths, no Mafia or Russian mobsters and hitmen, no drug wars, no international terrorism, etc. They have relatively little on-stage violence, focus on character interaction as much as on plot. What interests me are the effects of crime on Nameless, those close to him, and the often flawed individuals he comes in contact with.
6. Any regrets about the Nameless books? Cases you never got to writing, cases you wish you hadn't written, cases you still plan to write.
My only real regret is that some of the novels – hell, most of them – didn’t turn out better than they are. Every time I have occasion to look at one of the early titles, I find myself itching to rewrite it.
7. Of all the memorable, timeless characters who've appeared in your books two of your finest and most enduring. Kerry certainly puts the lie to the charge of the Nameless books being "retro." The relationship between Kerry and Nameless is as modern as chick lit. You obviously take the opportunity to comment on love in contemporary society through their enduring love, their occasional frustration and even moments of alienation.
One of PI fiction’s tropes is that the protagonist remain unmarried, a perpetual loner; if he falls in love, then something is supposed to happen to break up the relationship so he can get laid by a different woman next time out. I never bought into that, any more than I did the bottle of bourbon in the desk drawer or the .45 in a shoulder holster. When Nameless meets Kerry in Hoodwink, they were so right together it was inevitable their relationship lead to a permanent commitment. He believes in true love and all its benefits. So do I. And so do a fair number of readers, otherwise the series wouldn’t have lasted as long as it has.
8. The other character who has stayed with me is Eberhart, the former cop who became a partner in the Nameless agency. He is one of the most complicated and believable figures in the entire history of private eye fiction. Exasperating, endearing, trustworthy, duplicitous, arrogant, self-loathing...in many respects he is the neurotic version of Everyman. He was pretty much a standard cop figure when we first meet him in the early books but in the artful way you enrich him in later books he became a heartbreaking figure. Did you consciously develop him into this great sad dramatic figure?
As you say, Eberhardt was pretty much a standard cop figure in the early books. The decision to deepen his character was intentional, but the ways in which he developed and changed weren’t; he just sort of evolved naturally – an example of what writers mean when we say that a character takes on a life of his own without any conscious intent on our part, his fate determined by who he is and who he becomes.
9. I think your new Nameless novel VIXEN is among your finest depictions of the kind of people who are in crime news virtually every day. No no we say people can't really be like that but just this week we have a prison worker who not only helped two dangerous prisoners escape but also allegedly wanted them to murder her husband. VIXEN has that kind of shock value and that's definitely a part of its significance and page-turning quality. Tell us about it.
Vixen is my take on the classic femme fatale, as viewed from investigators’ points of view rather than (except for one necessary scene) her victim’s. Cory Beckett is no Brigid O’Shaugnessy or Matty Walker, certainly, but still a pretty vicious specimen with a couple of twists I felt were at least somewhat original to the breed.
Thank you very much, Bill.