An exhibit currently on view at the UC Berkeley Library, “Bullets Across the Bay,” explores San Francisco and the East Bay as settings for mystery, detective, and crime fiction. One of my books is included. If you’re in the Bay Area and interested in how your home and your reading interests intersect, I recommend checking out the exhibit!
Bay Area mystery novels date back to the early days of printed books in California and continue to the present day. From well before Dashiell Hammett penned his classic “hard-boiled” detective novel The Maltese Falcon in 1930 to the present, the Bay Bridge region landscape has been mined for its mystery possibilities. Though the region lies within a temperate Mediterranean climate, swirling fog and summer chill have been used to define and create an aura of shrouded mystery. The fact that the area lies on the western reaches of the continental United States, along with San Francisco’s ubiquitous hills, and cataclysmic episodes such as the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes, has underscored the precariousness inherent in these mystery novels.
The library collections at the University of California, Berkeley (including the Doe/Moffitt Libraries—Doe & Moffitt, Morrison, Graduate Services, Media Resources Center—the Bancroft Library, the Ethnic Studies Libraries, the Education-Psychology Library, and the Law Library) provide unparalleled resources for studying the rich mystery tradition of San Francisco and the East Bay. The focus of this exhibit is on first editions of mystery novels, supplemented with additional materials that contribute to the understanding of the genre and the place.