Mystery Scene says
Unlike any other body of work in the genre, Nameless is a history of San Francisco over a period of five decades; a history of American culture from the time of the hippies through the new century when peace and love, brother, are not only forgotten but downright anathema to a country becoming more and more right-wing; and a fictional autobiography, if you will, of a detective who is very much like his creator. In fact, when Bill finally gave him a name, no one was surprised when it turned out to be “Bill.”
I began this introduction by alluding to the Nameless novels because they are not only the dominant part of Bill’s worldwide reputation, they also have a lot in common with the most neglected part of his work—his brilliant, urgent stand-alones. And the stand-alones have even more in common with Bill’s short stories.
“This land is populated by ‘sons of Cain,’ men doomed to walk alone. One of the
major themes that comes from this is loneliness, or fear of apartness.”
(about John Steinbeck) StudyMode.com
Certainly there are times in the Nameless books when the mood of the detective fits the description above, but it is in such stand-alones as Blue Lonesome, A Wasteland of Strangers and The Crimes of Jordan Wise that Bill’s work begins to resonate with the same sense of doom as John Steinbeck, one of Bill’s favorite writers.
Three of the stories here have historical settings—“McIntosh’s Chute,” “The Hanging Man” and “Hooch” and show a particular kinship with Steinbeck’s work.
Bill’s early years were not unlike Steinbeck’s, young working-class man taking whatever jobs he could find while he wrote on the side:
“I haven’t held any other jobs since 1969. Before that: plumbing supply salesman, warehouseman, office typist, car-park attendant, part-time civilian guard for a U.S. marshal transporting federal prisoners from one lockup to another by car (sounds a lot more exciting than it was; mostly just boring road trips. But I did get one short story out of the experience).”
And so we come to the stories in this collection.
“Out of the Depths”
One of the most fascinating women I’ve ever encountered in crime fiction. And some of the finest dialogue Bill has ever written.
In what could have been a predictable take on traditional noir themes Bill, through the character of Shea, creates a classic story of isolation and terror.
The same can be said for Tanner, the epitome of the macho adventurer, who invites himself into her house in a Caribbean setting similar to The Crimes of Jordan Wise. He is real and yet at times not real. “He came tumbling out of the sea, dark and misshapen like a being that was not human. A creature from the depths . . .” These images open the story.
Shea must see him not only as a threat to her life but a sexual threat as well, for the subtext to this story is that of a frightened and betrayed woman who ultimately is as afraid of herself as much as she is of others.
Bill is a fine horror writer and a good deal of his crime work is tinged with horrorific effects. As I said, the dialogue here is among the finest Bill has ever created. As ominous and omnipresent as Tanner is, the story is Shea’s, whose words, collectively, are a bitter confession of her entangled and failed life.
Will she be raped? Will she be murdered?
Does she even care?