BILL PRONZINI – Quincannon. John Quincannon #1. Walker, hardcover, 1985. Berkley, paperback, September 2001.

   When readers of this blog see Bill Pronzini’s name, I’m sure that most of them will immediately think of his Nameless PI series, and rightfully so, since there are over 40 of them. A good percentage of these readers will also know him as the author of a large number of straight suspense novels. Relatively fewer will associate him with an additional 8 or 10 western novels, however, some published under other names.

   What you can count on with a Pronzini book, though, no matter what genre, is one that is is well-researched, will-plotted, and above all well-dialogued (if such is actually a word). Quincannon is actually a hybrid, a crossover between a western and a detective novel. The leading character is John Quincannon a longtime agent for the Secret Service in the 1890s, based in San Francisco. The case which he’s assigned to in this, his first recorded adventure, is finding out who’s flooding the West Coast with phony currency and counterfeit silver eagles and half-eagles.

   The trail leads him to a small mining town in Idaho, but unfortunately Quincannon is suffering from a bad case of the whiskey blues. If the word alcoholic was in use then, he would be one. His present is constantly clouded by the memory of the young pregnant woman he accidentally killed on on earlier assignment.

   But completely sober or not, in the guise of a patent medicine salesman, he’s still capable of doing the detective work needed to crack the case. Of even more importance, perhaps, is that in doing so, his path crosses that of a young independent woman named Sabina Carpenter, who has an uncanny resemblance to the woman whose death he was responsible for. And more, she also does not seem to be whom she claims to be.

   That they end up working together is a fact that followers of their combined careers already know. At the end of the book there is a strong hint that they will continue to be partners in a San Francisco-based private investigation business, which of course they did.

Bibliographic Notes:   Following this book, Quincannon next appeared in Beyond the Grave (1986), co-authored with Marcia Muller. Carpenter and Quincannon then appeared in a long list of short stories, some co-written by Myarcia Muller and most if not all collected in:

Carpenter & Quincannon, Professional Detective Services (1998).

Burgade’s Crossing (2003).
Quincannon’s Game (2005).

   Eventually the pair began appearing in book form, in the following list of novels, under the combined byline of Muller and Pronzini:

The Bughouse Affair (2013).

The Spook Lights Affair (2013).
The Body Snatchers Affair (2015).
The Plague of Thieves Affair (2016).
The Dangerous Ladies Affair (2017).