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Bill Pronzini Locked Room Titles

pronzini photoBill Pronzini (born 1943) is an American writer of detective fiction. He is also an active anthologist, having compiled more than 100 collections, most of which focus on mystery, western, and science fiction short stories.

William John Pronzini was born in Petaluma, California. He has been married three times, most recently to mystery writer Marcia Muller in 1992. They have collaborated on various novels and anthologies.

Pronzini published his first novel, The Stalker, in 1971. However, his best known works are the Nameless Detective series, which he began later in 1971.  As of 2013, there are now 42 books in this series, including a number of short stories. He has also written six books in a western detective series, Carpenter and Quincannon (four of these with Marcia Muller), as well as another 36 novels under his own name, and 10 more under several pseudonyms. However, it is in his production of short stories that Pronzini has been most prolific, writing well over 300 stories, and 19 collections, in various genres, as well as anthologizing over 90 volumes. He has also written four non-fiction works, primarily ‘The Gun in Cheek’ series, which studies the worst examples of early pulp fiction. His first award was a 1972 Edgar for ‘The Stalker’, with a very long list of honours following over the years. (Source: edited from Wikipedia)

The following list of  Impossible Crimes or Locked Room plots, is likely incomplete – quite simply buried in a that massive mountain of Pronzini short story titles. 

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Bill Pronzini Locked Room Novels

Hoodwink 2Hoodwink (1981) 
Detective: Nameless Detective


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Available in ebook and paperback editions.

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Note: This case began with a short story, ‘The Private Eye Who Collected Pulps’ (1979) (see below)

Note: Caught in the act?

Russell Dancer was a great writer of stories for pulp magazines. He arrives at a PulpCon convention in San Francisco, and receives an odd delivery – a threat of a plagiarism charge over an old short story called “Hoodwink”.  Nameless is in seventh heaven at the convention – until Dancer is found inside a locked room – with a dead body and a smoking gun clutched in his hand!

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scattershotScattershot (1982)
Detective: Nameless


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Note: Three impossible mysteries in a single week!

Business is booming for Nameless – three new cases in one week. then every single one of them turns bad. A husband disappears from a car that Nameless has been following. A woman is mysteriously murdered while Nameless is outside her bungalow. A valuable ring disappears from a locked room that Nameless is guarding. His PI license is looking a little shaky, and his new relationship is not doing much better! 

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bones BPBones (1985)
Detective: Nameless


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Available in ebook and paperback editions.

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Notes: A very cold case seems quite impossible!

An old grave opens a new case of murder. Nameless is called upon to solve a murder that happened four decades earlier. It seems impossible, but he takes the case because the victim was a favourite pulp writer. The author’s son is on a quest to find out how his writer-father really died. Was it a suicide or murder? 

More on ‘Bones’

Bill Pronzini Locked Room Short Stories: 

Note: See Bill Pronzini Collections (below) for a complete list of short story titles in each of the cited collection.

msmm july 1968The Perfect Crime (1968)
Detective: Sherrif Aubrey Canfield
Collection: MSMM, July 1968

No Review

Available only in the Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, July 1968

MSMM, July 1968

Note: Death by defenestration!

The cause of death was being thrown out of the window of a locked house, that was just about the only clear fact in this very odd case!

MSMM October 1969An Almost Perfect Hiding Place (1969)
Detective: Boone
Collection: MSMM, October 1969

No Review

Available only in the Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, October 1969

MSMM, October 1969

Note: A disappearing gun

A gun mysteriously disappears from a guarded ‘murder room’. Where was it hidden? The first of several similar stories, most of them fairly good.

graveyard plotsProof of Guilt (1973)
Detective: Jack Sherrard
Collections: Graveyard Plots; ‘The Mammoth Book of Perfect Crimes and Impossible Mysteries (ed. Ashley, Mike) 

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Note: A true classic of the locked room genre!

A lawyer is shot to death in his office, on the sixteenth floor of a downtown skyscraper. During a meeting, George Dillon had gone into the lawyer’s office, and ten minutes later a muffled explosion was heard by the law clerk, who went to the office and found it locked. Dillon finally emerges, claiming that the lawyer was leaning outside the window when he was  shot – the only problem is, the bullet is a small calibre and the nearest building over a hundred yards away, making it a virtually impossible shot!

For a list of stories in this collection, see Collections: Graveyard Plots (below)

More on ‘Proof of Guilt’

ElQMM-1974mayThe Half Invisible Man (1974)
(with Jeffrey M. Wallman)
Detective: Patrolman Fred Gallagher
Collection: EQMM, May, 1974

No Review

Only available in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine v63 #5, #366, May 1974

EQMM May 1974

Note: Don’t you hate invisible guests?

The Hotel Whitewater appears to have an invisible guest, there seems to be no other explanation for a series of very strange events – including a shooting in locked room.

All but Impossible!The Arrowsmith Prison Riddle (1976)
Detective: Buckmaster Gilloon
Collection: AHMM, October, 1976; ‘All but Impossible’ (Ed. by  Edward D. Hoch)

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Available only in The Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, October, 1976, and several anthologies: including ‘All But Impossible’, an excellent collection edited by Edward D. Hoch. Go to Anthologies page?

Book   AHMM, October, 1976

Note: He wasn’t hanging around!  One of Pronzini’s all time best!

It’s hanging time – complete with guards and witnesses. The prisoner stands on the gallows hatch, the rope securely knotted around his neck – then the lever is pulled and the body drops – but when they check below, no prisoner/corpse is swinging on the end of the rope! 

TantilizingVanishing Act (1976)
Written with Michael Kurland
Detective: Christopher Steele, Magician
Collections: AHMM, Tantalizing Locked Room Mysteries

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Available only in The Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, January, 1976, and several anthologies; including ‘Tantalizing Locked Room Mysteries’, edited by Isaac Asimov. Go to Anthologies page?


Note: Magician’s assassin steals the show!

A magician is murdered while performing for an audience of police cadets – then the killer pulls an impossible vanishing act!

Case Files BPThe Private Eye Who Collected Pulps (1979)
(AKA: The Pulp Connection)
Detective: Nameless
Collections: Case File; Mammoth Book Of Locked Room Mysteries (ed. Ashley, Mike)

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Available in ebook, Audible & used paperback or hardcover editions.

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Note: Murder at PulpCon!

Nameless is sitting in his office reading an old pulp magazine by Russell Dancer, when Dancer drops in invite him to a pulp convention – and ask a favour! The Pulpeteers, a group of pulp writers, and others associated with this genre, are being bombarded with extortion notes, making claims of long ago plagiarism. 

Nameless finds few clues, and the convention proves to be a minor success – until a shot is fired from behind the locked door of Dancer’s room. He is found over the body – gun in hand! No one else could have committed the murder, but Nameless soon finds himself trying to prove Dancer’s innocence.  

If the plot sounds familiar, you have a good memory! It is essentially the same story found in the novel ‘Hoodwink’.

List of stories in this collection, below: Collections, Case File.

More on ‘The Private Eye who reads the pulps’

EQMM November 1979A Nice Easy Job (1979)
Detective: Nameless
Collection: EQMM, November 1979

No Review

Available only in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, November 1979

EQMM, November, 1979

Note: Nameless searches for a stolen ring.

A ring is stolen from a locked and guarded room. The only clue for Nameless is a broken window – apparently opened from inside!  Scattershot (1982) was based on three short stories: ‘Thin Air’ (1979), ‘A Nice Easy Job’ (1979), and ‘A Killing in Xanadu’ (1982)

Case Files BPWhere have you gone, Sam Spade? (1980)
Detective: Nameless
Collections: Case File; Black Lizard Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries (ed. by Otto Penzler)

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Available in ebook, used paperback, and Audible formats

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Note: A Reverse Locked Room Mystery!

 Nameless thinks it’s easy money, when he takes a temporary night watchman’s job – until he finds a dead body! The warehouse is like a fortress, and Nameless must now figure out a reverse locked room puzzle – how did the corpse get into the sealed chamber! 

For a list of stories in this collection, see below: Collections: Case File

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Case Files BPDead Man’s Slough (1980)
Detective: Nameless
Collections: Case File, Scenarios

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Note: Nameless meets a ghost?

Nameless encounters a ghostly red headed man, who is supposedly the spirit of a dead miner, and pulls an impressive disappearing act!

For a list of stories in this collection, see below: Collections: Case File

More on ‘Case File’

A Killing in Xanadu
Detective: Nameless
Collection: A Killing in Xanadu, Wave Press, 1980

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Available only in this rare 20 page edition, or an impossible to find anthology, ‘Detectives A-Z, Bonanza Books, 1985.


Note: Need more information!

Robert Adey, Locked Room Murders: “Death by shooting in a cottage where all exits were either locked or under constant observation.”

Case Files BPBooktaker (1983)
Detective: Nameless
Collection:  Case File

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Note: Nameless encounters an impossible theft!

The Nameless Detective must find out how valuable books and documents have been stolen from an antiquarian bookshop with a faultless alarm system.

For a list of stories in this collection, see below: Collections: Case File

More on ‘Case File’

graveyard plotsCat’s Paw (1985)
Detective: Nameless
Collections: Cat’s-Paw, plus Incident in a Neighborhood Tavern; Graveyard Plots, Spadework, & Scenarios collections

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Note: Set in the lion house at a SF Zoo!

A Nameless Detective mystery story that starts with the theft of exotic animals from San Francisco’s Fleishhacker Zoo …and ends with murder. Expensive and endangered animals are being stolen, at the behest of a previous client— who also happens to be an animal enthusiast. —The Nameless Detective takes the case and finds himself patrolling the zoo after hours as a night watchman. He has one theory about the thefts already: the animals are being stolen by a collector or someone who knows their worth on the black market. However, as the Nameless Detective searches for answers, the clues begin to debunk his theory that the job was done by an outsider.…

Cat’s Paw won Pronzini his first Shamus Award for  the “Best Private Eye Short Story

For a list of other stories in these collection, see below: Collections: Graveyard Plots, Spadework, Scenarios

Spadework 2Ace In The Hole (1986)
Detective: Nameless
Collection: Spadework

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Note: Nameless spares the shoe leather!

Nameless becomes an armchair detective and quickly solves an impossible and wonderfully ingenious case without even leaving the poker table.

For a list of stories in this collection, see below: Collections: Spadework

Death Locked InThin Air (1987)
Detective: Nameless
Anthology: Death Locked In, Robert Adey & Douglas Greene

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Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions.


Note: The only way to get this great Pronzini story is to buy this excellent anthology!

Pronzini’s nameless PI has a simple job; follow some lady’s husband, and gather proof that he’s cheating on her. Then the husband simply vanishes from a locked car, which Nameless was watching at the time!

For a complete list of titles in ‘Death Locked In’, see our Locked Room Anthologies page

Small FeloniesThe Terrarium Principle (1988)
Detectives: Jerry and Andrea Parker
Collection: Small Felonies

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Available only in ebook and Audible formats.

Hardcover  eBook  Audible 

Note: A missing murder weapon

What really happened? Harding and his uncle were locked in the study when his uncle was fatally wounded – that much is undisputed. Harold claims the shot came through the window, but it took him more than eight minutes to open the door. Was he really looking out the window for a killer and tending his uncle’s wound – or just stashing the murder weapon where nobody can find it? Quite an entertaining read, though more of a search motif, than a true impossible crime plot!

For a list of stories in this collection, see below: Collections: Small Felonies

Small FeloniesCache and Carry (1988)
Written with Marcia Muller
Detective: Nameless
Collection: Small Felonies

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Available only in ebook and Audible formats.

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Note: The nameless Wolf? 

Co-written with Pronzini’s wife, Marcia Muller, and co- starring Sharon McCone, Muller’s femme fatale private eye, who is consulting with Nameless. $2000 is missing from a check cashing business, and only the two employees had any opportunity to take the money. Unfortunately, for the crook, the theft was discovered too soon, when the boss authorized a big payout – meaning that neither of the suspects had left the office. The money must still be hidden somewhere on the premises!  Nameless solves the mystery without even leaving his armchair, but McCone’s usage of ‘Wolf’ as Sharon’s ‘nickname’ for Nameless (or?) is really too jarring. Too much Muller, and not enough Pronzini!

For a list of stories in this collection, see below: Collections: Small Felonies

Small FeloniesSomething Wrong (1988)
Detective: Nameless
Collection: Small Felonies; Spadework

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Available only in ebook and audible formats.

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Note: Nameless knew something was wrong!

He couldn’t put his finger on it at first! One of the deadbolts may not have been properly set, but there was no sign of an intruder. Nothing looked out of place and all the valuables were accounted for. Nameless was beginning to doubt his intuition – until he found the dynamite under the recliner cushion! But how did it get there? The door had been locked and bolted several times and all the windows were barred! How did the would be bomber enter his apartment – and did they leave? A really well done very short story!

For a complete list of stories in this collection, see below: Collections: Small Felonies

Carpenter QuincannonNo Room at The Inn (1988)
Carpenter and Quincannon
Collection: Carpenter and Quincannon, Christmas Out West; Best Western Stories of Bill Pronzini

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Only available as a used paperback or hardcover.


Note: An impossible mystery in the wild west!

Quincannon would prefer to spend Christmas Eve relaxing in San Francisco, rather than hunting crooks in the high sierras, but there are bills to pay. Roland Lacourbe calls it a dry land, wild west version of ‘The Mystery of The Mary Celeste”

If you are in 1890’s San Francisco and faced with puzzles involving fraudulent rainmakers, nefarious spiritualists, coney games, a one-eyed lady gambler, a crook who vanishes from a train, or the stolen body of a Chinese Tong leader, you hire the firm of Carpenter and Quincannon. Former Pinkerton operative, Sabina Carpenter, has joined forces with former Secret Service agent, John Quincannon — in fact., Quincannon would like to join forces in other ways, but his partner continues to resist his lustful advances.

Bill Pronzini Short Stories Collections (Incomplete)

graveyard plotsGraveyard Plots – The Best Short Stories of Bill Pronzini (1985)


Cain’s mark
A lot on his mind
The pattern
I don’t understand it
Proof of guilt
Multiples / with Barry N. Malzberg
Sweet fever
Putting the pieces back
Smuggler’s Island
Under the skin
Caught in the act
Strangers in the fog
His name was legion
Rebound / with Barry N. Malzberg
Black wind
A craving for originality
Two weeks every summer
The hanging man
Cat’s-paw (A “Nameless Detective” story)
Skeleton rattle your mouldy leg (A “Nameless Detective” story)
Sanctuary (A “Nameless Detective” story)

Case Files BPCase File – A Collection of Nameless Detective Stories



It’s a lousy world
Death of a no body
One of those cases
Sin island
Private eye blues
The Pulp connection *
Where have you gone, Sam Spade? *
Dead man’s slough
Who’s calling?
Booktaker *

ScenariosScenarios – A Collection of Nameless Detective Stories



It’s a Lousy World
The Pulp Connection
Dead Man’s Slough
The Ghosts of Ragged-Ass Gulch
Skeleton Rattle Your Mouldy Leg
Incident in a Neighborhood Tavern
La Bellezza delle Bellezze
Souls Burning
Bomb Scare
The Big Bite
Season of Sharing (with Marcia Muller)
Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Spadework 2Spadework  – A Collection of Nameless Detective Stories



Introduction: My Two Best Friends by Marcia Muller
Skeleton Rattle Your Mouldy Leg
Twenty Miles from Paradise
Ace in the Hole
Incident in a Neighborhood Tavern
Something Wrong
Here Comes Santa Claus
Souls Burning
One Night at Dolores Park
Home Is the Place Where
Bomb Scare
Worried Mother Job
Zero Tolerance
A “Nameless Detective” Checklist

Small FeloniesSmall Felonies – Fifty Short Stories



A Cold Foggy Day / A Dip in the Poole / Something Wrong (A “Nameless Detective” Story) / The Imperfect Crime / Shell Game with Jeffrey M. Wallmann) / Sweet Fever / Perfect Timing / Dear Poisoner / Thirst / Skeletons / The Same Old Grind / His Name Was Legion / The Dispatching of George Ferris / Little Lamb / Once a Thief (with Jeffrey M. Wallmann) / Under the Skin / Changes / The Storm Tunnel / Defect / The Clincher / The Facsimile Shop (with Jeffrey M. Wallmann) / Waiting, Waiting… / Peekaboo / Words Do Not A Book Make / Incident in a Neighborhood Tavern (A “Nameless Detective” Story) / The Terrarium / On Guard! (with Michael Kurland) / Memento Mori / A Little Larceny / Mrs. Rakubian / Toy / House Call (with Jeffrey M. / Wallmann) / Deathwatch / Outrageous / Muggers’ Moon / Hero (A Tale of the Old West) / The Man Who Collected “The Shadow” / For Love / Unchained / Tiger, Tiger (with John Lutz) / Here Lies Another Blackmailer / Buttermilk / Retirement / One of Those Days / Don’t Spend It All in One Place / Cache and Carry (A “Nameless Detective”/Sharon McCone Story, with Marcia Muller) / The Killing / Black Wind / A Case for Quiet (with Jeffrey M. Wallmann) / Whodunit

Carpenter QuincannonCarpenter and Quincannon Short Stories



“No Room at the Inn” (1988, Crime At Christmas)
“Burgade’s Crossing” (1993, Louis L’Amour Western Magazine)
“The Cloud Cracker” (July 1994, Louis L’Amour Western Magazine)
“Lady One-Eye” (September 1994, Louis L’Amour Western Magazine)
“Coney Game” (November 1994, Louis L’Amour Western Magazine)
“The Desert Limited” (November 1995, Louis L’Amour Western Magazine)
“The Horseshoe Nail” (February 1997, EQMM)
“Medium Rare” (September/October 1998, EQMM)
“The Highbinders” (1998, Carpenter & Quincannon Professional Detective Services; also June 1999, EQMM)
“Quincannon in Paradise” (November 2005, EQMM)
“The Bughouse Caper” (2005, Quincannon’s Game)
“Medium Rare” (2005, Quincannon’s Game)
“Devil’s Brew” (December 2006, EQMM)
“The Carville Ghost” (September/October 2007, EQMM)
“Pickpocket” (September/October 2007, EQMM; by Marcia Muller, featuring Sabina Carpenter)
“Burglarproof” (February 2010, EQMM)
“The Body Snatchers” (July 2010, EQMM)
“The Chatelaine Bag” (June 2011, EQMM; with Marcia Muller)

Selected Bill Pronzini Bibliography

Locked Room 101: The Masters

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