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 these lines begins an obscure, anonymous novel called Mysteries and Miseries of San Francisco.¹ Published in
1853, it is one of the earliest—if not the first—crime novels set in the San Francisco Bay Area. The nine-county Bay Area²
has long been a popular setting for literary nefariousness. Cops, killers, detectives, and dames walk the mean streets of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose,
Sausalito, Walnut Creek, and Napa (along with many other real and imagined Bay Area communities) in these novels.
The Early Years
The San Francisco Committee of Vigilance, the activities of the Sydney ducks and famed bandit Joaquin Murietta, exotic and mysterious Chinatown, the wide open
lawlessness of the Gold Rush, and the havoc wreaked by the 1906 earthquake and fire provided frequent backgrounds for early Bay Area crime fiction—and, indeed, they
continue to do so. Several dime novels of the late 19th century, with their tales of intrepid heroes, dastardly villains, and beautiful damsels in distress, combined
crime and a Frisco setting.
Watching the Detectives
San Francisco is home to a wide variety of literary detectives. Perhaps the most famous of all Bay Area crime stories is Dashiell Hammetts prototypical
detective novel The Maltese Falcon (1930), featuring San Francisco gumshoe Sam Spade. With this book, and in numerous stories featuring his other
fictional PI, the Continental Op, Hammett established the standards for both literary detectives in general and Bay Area mysteries, specifically. Later
fictional detectives, such as William Babulas Jeremiah St. John, Stephen Greenleafs John Marshall Tanner, Bill Pronzinis
Nameless Detective, and Mark Coggins August Riordan owe a great debt to Hammett and his famous creations. But San Francisco is
also famous for its diversity. So, it is no surprise that there is also a large contingent of women detectives (Marcia Mullers Sharon McCone, Robin
Burcells Kate Gillespie (SFPDs first female homicide detective), Linda Grants Catherine Sayler, Laurie Kings Kate
Martinelli), gay detectives (Mary Wings Emma Victor, Elizabeth Pincus Nell Fury, Pat Welchs Helen Black, Lou Rands Francis Morley), and a host
of amateurs (Carol Ann OMaries Sister Mary Helen (nun), David Dodges Whit Whitney (tax accountant), Claire M. Johnsons Mary
Ryan (pastry chef), Kyra Daviss Sophie Katz (mystery writer)) and, of course, lawyers (Sheldon Siegels Mike Daley (who is also an ex-priest), John Lescroarts Dismas Hardy, Lia Materas Laura Di Palma and Willa Jansson).
And thats just the City. The other eight Bay Area counties are also crawling with fictional detectives and criminals. Communities such as Berkeley (Susan
Dunlap, Lenore Glen Offord, David Skibbins, Shelley Singer), Oakland (Whitman Chambers, Nichelle D. Tramble, Richard A. Lupoff, Renay Jackson), Silicon Valley (James Calder, Mark Coggins, Susan Wolfe), Napa Valley
(Nadia Gordon, Michele Scott), Contra Costa County (Jonnie Jacobs, David Corbett), and Marin County (Gillian Roberts, Jaqueline Girdner, Annie Griffin) are also well represented here.
In addition to the numerous fictional detectives based in the Bay Area, occasionally other regional detectives find themselves sleuthing in the cities by the Bay.
Southern California detectives such as Ross Macdonalds Lew Archer, Erle Stanley Gardners Perry Mason, and Walter Mosleys Easy Rawlins, and Robert B. Parkers Boston eye Spenser make occasional appearances in the Bay Area. Also
included here is the occasional mainstream novel in which crime figures prominently, such as Frank Norris classic of American naturalism, McTeague
No bibliography of this size is ever complete—or completely correct. Every effort has been made to be comprehensive and accurate. This bibliography has been
compiled using reliable sources, however, even the most authoritative sources can contain inaccuracies-even the Library of Congress.