In 1971, author Bill Pronzini was only 27 when he wrote The Snatch, building on a shorter and different version of the story that appeared in the May 1969 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine under the same title. With the publication of this book, one of detective fiction's great characters was born with full fledged power and authenticity. If you have not yet read the Nameless Detective novels by Mr. Pronzini, you have a major treat ahead of you. Many of these are now out-of-print, so be sure to check your library for holdings in near-by cities.
The Nameless Detective is referred to that way because Mr. Pronzini never supplies a name until this book, when police lieutenant Frank Hastings tells what his poker playing friends call Nameless, employing a first name. But it's never acknowledged by Nameless that this is his name . . . so it's probably a nickname. But you'll have to decide for yourself after reading page 56 of the original hard cover edition.
Mr. Pronzini presents a world in which people take evil actions to further selfish interests, and many innocents struggle because of that selfishness. The police and private investigators suffer along with the victims, for evil-doing has painful consequences for everyone. Mr. Pronzini's plots are complex, yet he provides plenty of clues to help you identify the evil-doer on your own. Despite the transparency of many plots, he successfully uses plot complications to keep the action interesting and fresh.
But the reason to read the books is because of the character development for the Nameless Detective. Nameless is a former police officer in San Francisco who collects pulp fiction about tough private detectives. Overcome by the evil he sees as a police officer and drawn to the complex imagery of the strong, silent hero who rights wrongs, Nameless tries to live that role as a private detective. But he has trouble getting clients, and operating as a one-man shop causes him to lead a lonely existence. In his personal life, his career keeps women at a distance. Like a medieval knight errant, he sticks to his vows and pursues doing the right thing . . . even when it doesn't pay. At the same time, he's very aware of art, culture and popular trends. And he doesn't like much of what he sees. At the same time, he's troubled by a hacking cough that cigarettes make worse . . . but doesn't really want to know what causes his phlegm to rise. He's been afraid of doctors since he saw them operating on wounded men during World War II.
The books are also written in a more sophisticated version of the pulp fiction style, employing greater style through language and plot. The whole experience is like looking at an image in a series of mirrors that reflect into infinity.
These books are a must for those who love the noir style, and the modern fans of tough detectives with a heart of gold like Spenser . . . and can live without the wise cracks and repartee.
In Twospot, we find out about the lesion that was found on Nameless's lung in Blowback, the fourth book in the series. We also find an unusual collaboration of two outstanding novelists, Mr. Pronzini and Collin Wilcox. Unlike most collaborations where two authors create one set of words, Twospot alternates between authors. The book opens from the Nameless perspective and narration and shifts back and forth from there into the Frank Hastings perspective and narration. The Nameless parts of the book are typical Pronzini, and the Wilcox parts are typical Wilcox, written in police procedural style.
The teamwork allows the book to have much more richness of detail and plot development than a typical Pronzini book, that's the strength of the police procedural style. On the other hand, police procedurals have less mystery in them than most Pronzini books. So those who want to be left dangling until the end will find this book doesn't dangle. I liked the book better because of the collaboration . . . because Mr. Wilcox does a better job of developing the police perspective than Mr. Pronzini usually does in the Nameless books.
The story begins with Nameless arriving at a Napa Valley winery to report about the seedy background of a winery employee. Events take an unexpected turn when Nameless arrives while his client, Alex Cappellani, is being attacked. From there, the story veers off into all kinds of unexpected directions. I found I couldn't put the book down.
After you finish this exciting story, think about where obsession can be harmful in your life. Are you willing to let go of your obsession? When? How about now?