Bullets Across the Bay


One of the hallmarks of the San Francisco Bay Area is the diversity of its residents. The region prides itself on being a place that is tolerant and welcoming of all people. This diversity is reflected in the crime fiction of the area, with a proliferation of characters of varying sexual orientations and ethnic and religious backgrounds. The Bay Area also appeals to people from around the country as a place where new ideas can be explored, where artists and poets and musicians congregate, and where alternative lifestyles are not only accepted, they are encouraged.

John Trinian (pseudonym of Zekial Marko, 1933-2008)
North Beach Girl
New York: Gold Medal Books, 1960.
Bancroft A6.T74.N6 1960

In 1950s San Francisco, Erin, an artists’ model who is trying to raise money for herself and her girlfriend, is drawn into the “beatnik underworld” when she comes under suspicion for the death of her wealthy grandmother.

Jack Spicer (1925-1965)
The Tower of Babel
Hoboken, N.J.: Talisman House, 1994.
Bancroft p PS3569.P47.T68 1994

This posthumously published “detective novel” tells the story of John James Ralston, an academic and poet, who returns to the San Francisco in the late 1950s and, in his first encounter with so-called Beat poets, is thrust into the role of amateur detective. Spicer, who worked briefly as a private detective (1943-1944), was a major figure in the San Francisco literary scene of the late 50s and early 60s.

Patricia Morrison
Ungrateful Dead: Murder at the Fillmore
New York: Lizard Queen Press, 2007.
Main PS3561.E353.U547 2007

It’s March 1966: not quite the Summer of Love. When Rennie Stride’s best friend, rock singer Prax McKenna, is busted for being at two savage crime scenes—one of them backstage at the newly opened Fillmore Auditorium—Rennie sets out to clear her friend’s name. The author is the wife of the late Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors.

David Skibbins (1947- )
Eight of Swords
New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005.
Main PS3619.K55.E53 2005 | Bancroft PS3619.K55.E53 2005

The first novel in the series about Warren Ritter, a man of many secrets (in the Sixties he was a leader of the radical Weather Underground), who makes his living reading the tarot on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue. Winner of the 2004 Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery Contest.

Stan Kent
Shoe Leather
New York: Blue Moon Books, 1999.
Private collection

Violetta Valery Cutero uses her “psychosexual” power of learning a shoe owner’s most intimate experiences when she slips on his or her shoes to track down the Dildo Killer, “the sadistic, cross-dressing slasher terrorizing the Bay Area.”

Jenny Scholten
Day Stripper
Norwich, Vt.: New Victoria Publishers, 2000.
Private collection

In this first book in the “stripper noir” series, Aubrey Lyle, a young woman making her living as an exotic dancer in San Francisco, becomes an amateur sleuth when one of her fellow dancers is murdered.

Lou Rand
The Gay Detective
San Francisco: Cleis Press, 2003.
(orig. pub.: Fresno, Calif.: Saber Press, 1961)
Bancroft p PS3568.A4775.G39 2003

Originally published in 1961 by the gay pulp publisher Saber Press, The Gay Detective is set in a thinly-disguised San Francisco in the early 1960s, just as the city was earning its reputation as a world-renowned mecca for the gay community. In 1965, author Lou Rand (as “Chef Lou Rand Hogan”) published The Gay Cookbook.

Orland Outland
Death Wore a Smart Little Outfit
New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 1997.
Bancroft p PS3565.U96.D425 1997

San Francisco drag queen/amateur sleuth Doan McCandler and his lovely sidekick, Binky van de Kamp, journey into the glamorous world of the San Francisco art scene to investigate the murders of several artists. Two further outings for Doan and Binky followed: Death Wore a Fabulous New Fragrance (1998) and Death Wore the Emperor’s New Clothes (1999).

Mabel Maney (1958- )
The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse
Pittsburgh, Pa.: Cleis Press, 1993.
Moffitt PS3563.A466.C37 1993 | Bancroft PS3563.A466.C37 1993

Girl detective Nancy Clue meets nurse Cherry Aimless in a San Francisco lesbian bar and they carry on a torrid love affair while investigating the kidnapping of a group of nuns by an evil priest in this first of three “Nancy Clue Mystery” novels, which parody of the “Nancy Drew” and “Nurse Cherry Ames” books written for girls in the 1930s and 1940s.

Leonard Chang
Fade to Clear
New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2004.
Asian American Studies PS3553.H27244.F34 2004 | Main PS3553.H27244.F34 2004 | Bancroft PS3553.H27244.F34 2004

Korean-American Allen Choice (née Choi) made his first appearance in Over the Shoulder (2001) as a security consultant working in Silicon Valley. When his partner was murdered, he followed in Sam Spade’s footsteps and became a detective to avenge his partner’s death. In Fade to Clear, the third entry in the series, Choice, now a private investigator in San Francisco, is working a kidnapping case that leads him into the world of drug smuggling and money laundering. Leonard Chang writes both genre fiction and literary fiction that focuses on the Korean-American experience.

Richard A. Lupoff (1935- )
The Emerald Cat Killer
New York: Minotaur Books, 2010.
Private collection

Over the course of eight novels set mostly in Berkeley and the East Bay, Richard A. Lupoff documents the relationship between white insurance investigator Hobart Lindsay and black homicide detective Marvia Plum, one of the very few interracial couples in detective fiction.

Lucha Corpi (1945- )
Black Widow’s Wardrobe
Houston, Tex.: Arte Público Press, 1999.
Chicano Studies PX1552.B62 1999 | Main PS3553.O693.B58 1999 | Bancroft PS3553.O693.B58 1999

Poet, novelist, and children’s book author Lucha Corpi is widely credited with creating the first Chicana detective in American literature. In three books, starting with Eulogy for a Brown Angel (1992), Oakland’s Gloria Damasco, a feminist political activist turned private investigator, solves mysteries that often have as much to do with the myth and history of the Latino experience as they do with crime.

Diana Orgain
Motherhood is Murder
New York: Berkeley Prime Crime, 2010.
Private collection

In this second installment of the Maternal Instincts Mystery Series, first-time mom Kate Connolly intersperses the frequent breast-feeding of her two-month-old daughter with crime-solving in and around San Francisco. She is assisted by her husband, mother, and best friend as she juggles motherhood and murder investigations.


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Dashiell Hammett
Anthony Boucher
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