Former pulp writer and current hack Russell Dancer invites Nameless to the first annual Western Pulp Convention in San Francisco. He wants Nameless to help him locate the person who is trying to blackmail Dancer for a purported plagiarism of a story called "Hoodwink." Arriving at the convention, Nameless discovers that a group of former friends (and now uncomfortable colleagues) who wrote for the pulps called the "Pulpeteers" have all received blackmail notes. Nameless is in seventh heaven as he meets many of his favorite pulp writers, buys pulp novels for his collection and meets a stunning younger woman who is the daughter of two famous pulp writers. For once, Nameless has some luck with the ladies. But is Kerry Wade attracted to him, or to his job as a private eye? Is he really attracted to her, or to her connection to the pulps? The convention is unexpectedly disrupted when one of the guests is found dead in a locked room while Russell Dancer is holding a gun that's been recently fired. It looks like an obvious case of murder by Dancer, who has been feuding with the man. Dancer denies his guilt, and only Nameless is willing to believe him. As Nameless tracks down the guilty party, he finds himself faced with a second locked room mystery... and a target for a murderer.
Hoodwink is the seventh case in Bill Pronzini’s Nameless series.
Nameless crosses paths again with Russell Dancer, an alcoholic pulp-writer who we met in an earlier Nameless case. There’s a Pulp convention coming up and all the members of a writer’s group from years previously have been targeted by a blackmailer – ready to expose one of them for plagiarism.
At the conference, Nameless is introduced to the group and gets to observe at close hand the bitterness and rancour that exists between several of the members. Dancer with an insatiable appetite for alcohol, behaves atrociously. Frank Colodny, the Pulpeteer groups’ previous editor is murdered.
Plenty of candidates for suspect, as during his career he shafted the lot of them to a greater or lesser degree; only there’s the small matter of Dancer - in his cups as per usual, found in the locked room with the smoking gun in his hand.
Nameless, whilst extremely tired of Dancer’s boorish behaviour, believes he could be innocent. To the chagrin of the police he pursues the case, digging into the group’s history and uncovering buried secrets. Along the way he finds a little bit of romance with the daughter of two of the groups’ members, much to the dissatisfaction of her father. Another enemy made.
More murders follow, including another locked room mystery! (That’s two in the one book – when I don’t think I have read any previously!)
During the course of our investigation, Nameless gets to display his decency and gentlemanliness when matters of a delicate nature surface. He pursues his inquiries despite the fear that his beau’s parents could be caught in the crossfire and his fledgling romance de-railed before it really gets a chance to take-off.
In the end we get a solution to all our questions, bar one. Does Nameless get to keep the girl? To be continued I expect. (Scattershot – episode 8 next month!)
4 from 5
Bought copy several years ago.