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Authors: Bill Pronzini

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Bill Pronzini

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© 2011 / Bill Pronzini

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Case File





Gun in Cheek: An Affectionate Guide to the Worst in Mystery Fiction

Son of Gun in Cheek






Graveyard Plots

More Oddments

Night Freight

On Account of Darkness

Problems Solved


Small Felonies


Stacked Deck




Border Fever

Carmody's Run

Day of the Moon

Duel at Gold Buttes

Gallows Land

Starvation Camp


Non Fiction:


Sixgun in Cheek (Coming Soon)

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"Fergus O'Hara, Detective." Copyright © 1974, 1990 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust. First published in
Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.

"The Desert Limited." Copyright © 1995 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust. First published in
Louis L'Amour Western Magazine.

"Medium Rare." Copyright © 1998 by the Pronzini-Muller Family
Trust. First published in
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

"Jade." Copyright © 1970 by H.S.D. Publications; revised version copyright © 1999 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust. First pub
lished in
Alfred Hitchcocks Mystery Magazine
as "The Jade Figurine."

"Vanishing Act." Copyright © 1975 by H.S.D. Publications, Inc.
First published in
Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.

"The Desperate Ones." Copyright © 1971, 1992 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust. First published in
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

"Blood Money." Copyright © 1975, 1992 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust. First published in
Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.

"Dead Man's Slough." Copyright © 1980, 1983 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust. First published in
Alfred Hitchcock's
Mystery Magazine.

"A Killing in Xanadu." Copyright © 1980 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust. First published in a limited edition by Waves Press.

"Stakeout." Copyright © 1990 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust. First published in
Justice for Hire.

"La Bellezza delle Bellezze." Copyright © 1991 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust. First published in
Invitation to




Fergus O'Hara

Fergus O'Hara, Detective


Carpenter and Quincannon

The Desert Limited

Medium Rare


Dan Connell



Christopher Steele

Vanishing Act (with Michael Kurland)



The Desperate Ones

Blood Money


The "Nameless Detective"

Dead Man's Slough

A Killing in Xanadu


La Bellezza delle Bellezze


Over the past thirty-some years I've had the pleasure of creating a variety of fictional sleuths for both novels and short stories One of them has fared quite well, the others have been less successful, though a couple have had careers which exceeded my modest expectations. Each has led an interesting life (at least to me) and each has been different in fundamental ways.

Foremost among them, of course, is the fellow who has been around almost as long as I have—my first story was published in 1966, his first recorded case a year later—and who is better known than I am in spite of the fact that he doesn't have a name. The San Francisco private investigator dubbed the "Nameless Detective" (by a former editor, not by me) has appeared in twenty-five novels and numerous short stories spanning four decades.

My other series detectives run the gamut of fictional types: professional and amateur,
historical and contemporary, humorous and deadly serious, honorable and notorious, soft-boiled, medium-boiled, and hard-boiled. There is Fergus O'Hara, a roguish individualist who, with his wife Hattie, plies his trade during the time of the Civil War. There are John Quincannon and Sabina Carpenter, an affectionately mismatched pair who operate a private agency called Carpenter and Quincannon, Professional Detective Services, in 1890s San Francisco. There is Dan Connell, ex-pilot and reformed black marketeer whose bailiwick is Singapore and Malaysia. There is Christopher Steele, magician extraordinary, who specializes in solving seemingly impossible crimes
a joint creation with Michael Kurland. And there is Carmody, a freelance bodyguard and supplier of legal and extralegal services, who is based on the Mediterranean island of Majorca and whose adventures take him to such locales as Vienna, Venice, Amsterdam, North Africa, and Spain's Costa del Sol.

Each of these characters, and his (and her) special brand of detection, is represented here
a sort of detectives' round table. You may not like all of them or their methods, but I hope you'll find their company stimulating. None of them gave
a dull moment, anyway…


Bill Pronzini

Petaluma, California

Fergus O'Hara, Detective

n a balmy March afternoon in the third full year of the War Between the States, while that conflict continued to rage bloodily some two thousand miles distant, Fergus and Hattie O'Hara jostled their way along San Francisco's Embarcadero toward Long Wharf and the riverboat
Delta Star.
The half-plank, half-dirt roads and plank walks were choked with horses, mules, cargo-laden wagons—and with all manner of humanity: bearded miners and burly roustabouts and sun-darkened farmers; rope-muscled Kanakas and Filipino laborers and coolie-hatted Chinese; shrewd-eyed merchants and ruffle-shirted gamblers and bonneted ladies who might have been the wives of prominent citizens or trollops on their way to the gold fields of the Mother Lode. Both the pace and the din were furious. At exactly four P.M. some twenty steamers would leave the waterfront, bound upriver for Sacramento and Stockton and points in between.

O'Hara clung to their carpetbags and Hattie clung to O'Hara as they pushed through the throng. They could see the
Delta Star
the moment they reached Long Wharf. She was an impressive side-wheeler, one of the "floating palaces" that had adorned the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers for more than ten years. Powered by a single-cylinder, vertical-beam engine, she was 245 feet long and had slim, graceful lines. The long rows of windows running full length both starboard and larboard along her deckhouse, where the Gentlemen's and Dining Saloons and most of the staterooms were located, refracted jewellike the rays of the afternoon sun. Above, to the stern, was the weather deck, on which stretched the "texas"; this housed luxury staterooms and cabins for the packet's officers. Some distance forward of the texas was the oblong glassed-in structure of the pilothouse.

Smiling as they approached, O'Hara said, "Now ain't she a fine lady?" He spoke with a careless brogue, the result of a strict ethnic upbringing in the Irish Channel section of New Orleans. At times this caused certain individuals to underestimate his capabilities and intelligence, which in his profession was a major asset.

fine, Fergus," Hattie agreed. "As fine as any on the Mississippi before the war. How far did you say it was to Stockton?"

O'Hara laughed. "A hundred twenty-seven miles. One night in the lap of luxury is all we'll be having this trip, me lady."

"Pity," Hattie said. She was in her late twenties, five years younger than her husband; dark-complected, buxom. Thick black hair, worn in ringlets, was covered by a lace-decorated bonnet. She wore a gray serge traveling dress, the hem of which was now coated with dust.

O'Hara was tall and plump, and sported a luxuriant red beard of which he was inordinately proud and on which he doted every morning with scissors and comb. Like Hattie, he had mild blue eyes; unlike Hattie, and as a result of a fondness for spirits, he possessed a nose that approximated the color of his beard. He was dressed in a black frock coat, striped trousers, and a flowered vest. He carried no visible weapons, but in a holster inside his coat was a double-action revolver.

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