BILL PRONZINI “One Night at Dolores Park.” Short story. Nameless PI. First published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, April 1995. Collected in Spadework (Crippen & Landru, 1996) and Dago Red: Tales of Dark Suspense (Ramble House, 2015). Reprinted in The Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories: Fifth Annual Edition, edited by the staff of Mystery Scene magazine (Carroll & Graf, 1996) and A Century of Noir: Thirty-two Classic Crime Stories, edited by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins (Berkley, softcover, 2002).

   When this story was written, the section of San Francisco dubbed Dolores Park was falling into urban decay, complete with drug dealers, burglaries and constant intimidation, with people moving out left and right. And in this short tale, that’s where Bill Pronzini’s Nameless PI has quite a night for himself. (Also noted, but only incidentally, one of the characters mistakenly calls him Orenzi.)

   Nameless is there in the first place on a stakeout to serve some papers on a resident who’s a reluctant witness in case handled by the lawyer who hired him, then he himself is a witnesses to a would-be mugging of another resident, a woman who really ought to have known better.

   But do muggers generally have guns? Nameless intervenes and takes the would-be victim safely home, only to find himself in the midst of a marriage that’s falling apart as decisively as the neighborhood in which the couple find themselves living. This is a powerfully done tale of parallel and contrast, and yes, of course, it’s a detective story, too.