BILL PRONZINI – Scattershot. St. Martin’s Press, hardcover, 1982; $10.95. PaperJacks, paperback reprint, 1987.


   Business, as they say, is booming. For Bill Pronzini’s pulp-collecting detective, for one, and for readers of private-eye fiction, for hundreds, if not thousands of others.

   Doomsayers to the contrary, the PI story is alive and — would you believe? — thriving. I’ve got a stack of PI novels here you wouldn’t believe how high, and if I weren’t awfully careful about it, I could read nothing but. Not that I would. I’d be burned out within a month if I did. I need a Leslie Ford every now and then, just to keep a proper perspective on things.

   But back to “Nameless,” as he has more or less officially been dubbed. All of a sudden he has more cases than he needs, especially just as his love life with Kerry (the lady he hit it off with so well in Hoodwink) is turning sour.

   Strangely enough, so do each of the three cases recorded in this book. Each becomes an impossible crime: a locked-room murder, a man who vanishes out of a constantly watched car, a wedding present that disappears out of a constantly guarded room.

   Terrific stuff , but 100 percent guaranteed to produce ulcers for the detective who is supposed to solve them or else. Lose his license? Nah, it couldn’t be … could it ? Life’s never this rotten. Is it?

   People not in the know constantly confuse PI fiction with hard-boiled fiction. There is an overlap, but nothing could really be much further from the truth. “Nameless” tries — he’s a man, and he has a macho image to maintain, whether consciously or not — but in many ways, in spite of all his rough edges, he’s also too soft and vulnerable. And likeable. He’d be hell to live with, but Kerry will come back. Won’t she?

   Hey, Bill! How long will we have to wait for the next one?

Rating: A minus.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 7, No. 3, May-June 1983 (slightly revised).

[UPDATE]   If I have my chronology straight, the next book in the series was Dragonfire, which came out later the same year. I won’t tell you how the romance with Kerry came out, though. If you’re a fan of the series, you already know.

   I missed out on Patti Abbott’s multi-blog salute to Bill Pronzini on the occasion of his 70th birthday a couple of weeks ago. I had this review in mind to be included, but … time got away from me.

   Scattershot was the 8th book in the Nameless series, and now there are 30 more, or 38 in all, not including short stories, novelettes, and novellas. Best wishes for many more birthdays, Bill, and for many more books in the series.