Bullets Across the Bay


The highest honors given to crime and mystery literature are the Edgar Allan Poe Awards given annually by the Mystery Writers of America. Edgars are the “Oscars” of the mystery world. The San Francisco Bay Area has been well-represented in the Edgars over the years, with two “Grand Master” awards—given for lifetime achievement in mystery fiction—and a host of “bests.”

Bill Pronzini, who has written so many books and stories that a complete accounting is a difficult task, was awarded the Grand Master in 2008. He began his prolific career in 1971 with the publication of The Stalker, a stand-alone thriller set in San Francisco, which was nominated for an Edgar for Best First Novel. He quickly followed that novel later the same year with The Snatch, the first entry in the long-running series featuring the Nameless Detective, an honorable, tenacious, Everyman P.I. who, like his literary predecessor, Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op, roams the mean streets of San Francisco. The latest entry in the series, Camouflage, was published in June 2011.

Pronzini also has the distinction of being one of only two Grand Masters who is also married to a Grand Master. The other, of course, is his wife Marcia Muller, who preceded him as a Grand Master in 2005. Muller is widely credited as being the creator of the first American female contemporary hard-boiled private investigator—Sharon McCone. The first novel in the series, Edwin of the Iron Shoes, was published in 1977. Sharon works for All Souls Legal Cooperative in San Francisco, which offers low-cost legal representation to clients who would not otherwise be able to afford it, bringing McCone the types of cases not usually represented in detective fiction. The 29th novel in the series, City of Whispers, will be published in October 2011.

Muller and Pronzini have also collaborated on numerous publishing projects, including as co-authors of a handful of novels and as co-editors of several anthologies and reference works.

Bill Pronzini (1943- )
The Snatch
New York: Random House, 1971.
Bancroft PS3566.R67.S59 1971

In the first novel in the series, readers meet a 47-year-old detective, who always remains nameless. He is an ex-San Francisco cop, smokes too much (but is trying to quit), lives alone in a flat in a Pacific Heights Victorian, and collects vintage pulp magazines from the 30s and 40s. Things go wrong when he is hired to be the bag man in a kidnapping case.

Marcia Muller (1944- )
Edwin of the Iron Shoes
New York: David McKay Company, Inc.: Ives Washburn, Inc., 1977.
Bancroft PS3563.U397.E395 1977b

This novel introduces readers to Sharon McCone, a liberated young woman trying to make it as a private eye in San Francisco who works as the staff investigator for All Souls Cooperative, a legal aid agency for low-income clients. McCone is generally regarded as being the first female hard-boiled private eye in modern fiction.

Bill Pronzini (1943- )
The Vanished
New York: Random House, 1973.
Bancroft PS3566.R79.V3 1973

In the second book in the long-running “Nameless Detective” series, the unnamed San Francisco private investigator is hired by a woman to find her missing fiancé. Master Sergeant Roy Sands had come home to San Francisco to muster out of the service after twenty years and get married. But, within a few hours of landing on American soil, he mysteriously and inexplicably disappeared.

Marcia Muller (1944- )
Ask the Cards a Question
New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982.
Bancroft PS3563.U397.A9 1982b

In her second mystery, murder strikes close to home for San Francisco P.I. Sharon McCone when one of her Mission District neighbors is found dead. The unlikely victim is Molly Antonio, the nicest person in Sharon’s apartment building. As she tracks down the killer, by investigating her friends and neighbors, Sharon uncovers an elaborate black market plot operating in the heart of the city.

Bill Pronzini (1943- )
New York: Forge, 2005.
Main PS3566.R67.N45 2005

Marcia Muller (1944- )
Coming Back
New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010.
Morrison PS3563.U397.C66 2010

The 28th novel in the long-running Sharon McCone series finds McCone recovering from a near-fatal gunshot wound that left her in a coma.

Bill Pronzini (1943- ) and Collin Wilcox
New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1978.
Bancroft PS3566.R67.T85 1978

Bill Pronzini (1943- ) and Marcia Muller (1944- )
New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984.
Bancroft PS3566.R67.T85 1978

Bill Pronzini (1943- ) and Marcia Muller (1944- ), eds.
1001 Midnights: The Aficionado’s Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction
New York: Arbor House, 1986.
Private collection

Bill Pronzini (1943- ) and Martin H. Greenberg, eds.
The Mammoth Book of Private Eye Stories
New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2004.
Main PS648.D4.M16 2004


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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