Bullets Across the Bay


While the development of the modern crime novel can rightly be traced directly back to the publication of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon in 1930, that novel itself rests on a foundation of Bay Area mystery and crime novels that preceded it.

“San Francisco, on the marge of the sea, with towering hills behind her, lay basking in the sun like a serpent by the side of a rock.”

With this ominous line begins The Mysteries and Miseries of San Francisco, published anonymously in 1853. The novel is a sprawling account of high and low life in San Francisco and has the distinction of being the earliest known crime novel with a Bay Area setting. Dime novel heroes, intrepid newspaper reporters, amateur sleuths, and even pre-hard-boiled private eyes all walk the mean streets of turn-of-the-century San Francisco in books published in the decades before Sam Spade begins his quest to find the mysterious black bird.

C.E. Tripp
Ace High, the ‘Frisco Detective, or, The Girl Sport’s Double Game: A Story of the Sierra & the Golden Gate City
San Francisco: Book Club of California, 1948.
(orig. pub.: New York: Beadle and Adams, 1893 (Beadle’s Half-Dime Library no. 814))
Main f 955.T836.ace | Bancroft f F855.8.T7 | Bancroft pf F596.1.B36 no.814

Originally published February 28, 1893 as a “dime novel,” this potboiler, set in the 1860s, tells the story of Ace High, the “Gambler Detective,” who is teamed with Flash, the “Girl Sport,” against a desperate, blood-thirsty gang of outlaws called the “Hounds of ‘Frisco.”

Lucia Chamberlain
The Other Side of the Door
Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1909.
Main 961.C443

Early one morning, Ellie Fenwick, a young woman in 1865 San Francisco, takes a detour down Dupont Street in Chinatown and witnesses a murder. Her testimony helps to convict the killer. But is he really guilty?

Alice MacGowan (1858-1947) and Perry Newberry (1870-1938)
The Million-Dollar Suitcase
New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1922.
Main PS3525.A246 M5 1922b | Bancroft F855.1.M146mi

Anticipating the emergence of the hard-boiled private detective, Alice MacGowan and Perry Newberry wrote five novels during the 1920s that chronicle the career of private investigator Jerry Boyne. The first, The Million-Dollar Suitcase, introduces Jeremiah “Jerry” Boyne, head of the Bankers’ Security Agency in San Francisco.


Early Mysteries
Dashiell Hammett
Anthony Boucher
Mystery Writers of America
Muller & Pronzini
Counter Culture and Diversity
Historic Events
Juvenile Mysteries
Cal Connection
Books on Film
Critical Resources


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