I'm gonna have give Mark credit for this one. I wouldn't have known about Bill Pronzini if not Mark's recommendations. One of my big regrets is the likelihood that I might never get to meet him. I would feel immensely intimidated to do so, more than meeting Joe Lansdale or Jack Ketchum, and as much as meeting Mike Mignola.

Why? In short, he's greatest short story writer alive. That's no exaggeration either. I can't remember the plot to every story or novel but I rarely encountered one by him I didn't like. Let's take a minute to appreciate his work.

Pronzini is best-known for his Nameless Detective series. Actually, Nameless' name is Bill. Pronzini indicated that he was projecting himself into the character but thought it would be silly to give him an Italian last name. Nameless is a sharp private eye. He's an average Joe, who loves pulp magazines and beer. He's originally a pretty lonely person, even hinting he had cancer. Things looked bleak but Pronzini gave him a new lease on life with a clean bill of health and a growing supporting cast. Some of the best novels that I've read are Mourners, Savages, and Vixen. The short stories were always fun, some of the best include "Booktaker" and "The Ghosts of Ragged-Ass Gulch." "Incident in a Neighborhood Tavern" is one of the briefest and best private eye shorts I ever read. Why this hasn't been made into a multi-season Netflix series is beyond me

He wrote and co-wrote his share of wonderful non-series novels. Masques is an interesting novel of murder and voodoo in New Orleans. The Running of Beasts, is a largely unknown serial killer novel that I discussed a while back. There are numerous books of his I have yet to read, so you can count on a follow up. Don't ask when.

To me, Pronzini's strength is with his short stories. There's considerable overlap in his collections, but you'll find his best ones in Graveyard Plots, Night Freight, Small Felonies, Small Felonies 2, Case File, and Scenarios. He wrote with deft characterization, economy, and clever twists. They tend to be perfect examples of what you could do with a short story and demonstrate to a college class how to do it. So many college courses use dull, bullshit examples of what is "literary" but fail to inspire.

"Black Wind" is a disquieting short that hints at horrible things. "Sweet Fever" is just as much a horror story as it is a crime story. "Out Behind the Shed" and "Peekaboo" are nasty, terrifying tidbits. "Cold Foggy Day" should have won an Edgar. Do I need to keep going on? "The Man Who Collected the Shadow" is a pulpy tale of wish fulfillment. "His Name Was Legion" is a darksome crime tale that would make a great short film. "The Same Old Grind" is gruesome in its implications. "Here Lies Another Blackmailer" is sinister and sardonic. Take it from me, Pronzini is a national treasure.

Lastly, Bill Pronzini was an perceptive and erudite critic of crime fiction. This is probably most evident in 1,001 Midnights that he co-edited with his wife Marcia Mueller. It's a weighty tome that provides diverse and expansive reviews on crime fiction books of every era and subgenre. Despite being almost 40 years old, it's still a great resource. I'm still working on my book on Fawcett Gold Medal. Of the modern day critics who I think should have been writing this kind of book, I would have nominated Bill Crider, Ed Gorman, or Pronzini. Crider and Gorman unfortunately passed away and far be it from me to impose on Pronzini's prolific schedule. All three, individually and collectively, are more qualified than I could ever hope to be.

This is an obvious love letter to Bill, but he doesn't get enough attention. His books aren't always easy to find in the wild but are generally cheap online. It's a crime that he isn't better known, a crime almost as heinous as the ones he wrote about.

Written by Nicholas Montelongo

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