Marcia Muller's The Ever-Running Man

Having earned a BA in English and an MA in Journalism, Marcia Muller chose writing as her career path. She became interested in mystery novels after reading the work of Ross Macdonald. Muller has been called the mother of the female private detective series. She began her Sharon McCone series in 1977, five years before Sue Grafton’s alphabet books and Sue Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski novels. In addition to her 30 Sharon McCone novels, Muller has written stand-alone mysteries, a few shorter series, and a number of Western and mystery short stories.

Marcia Muller and husband Bill Pronzini have both won the Grand Master Award and the Private Eye Writers of America’s Eye Award. Muller has also won the Shamus Award and the Anthony Boucher Award. Like Ellery Queen, she is an anthologist as well as a writer, compiling numerous editions of mystery and Western stories, many with the help of Pronzini. They have also collaborated on a number of mystery novels. In a Booklist interview, she elaborated on the advantages of their partnership:
Bill and I bounce around ideas. We exchange pages on a biweekly basis whenever we feel that we have enough to show. If a problem comes up, we are free to pop into the office and say, “Help.” I’ve learned a lot about writing from Bill because he has been a writer for so much longer. There are things that he has taught me that would have taken much longer to figure out. (2000, 1596)
The Ever-Running Man is the 27th Sharon McCone mystery. The story begins with an unidentified bomber blowing up buildings that belong to REI, an international security firm headquartered in San Francisco. Hy Ripinsky, co-partner in the firm, asks his wife McCone to solve the case. While she investigates, the bombings continue and the intrigue intensifies. McCone delves into the past of the three partners and unearths a number of shocking revelations. This fast-paced novel is gripping and intense.

The Ever-Running Man is both a thriller and a mystery novel. No one knows who the victim will be when the next bomb explodes. McCone, her husband, or any of his coworkers may be next. And the more McCone learns about her husband’s partners, the more she distrusts Hy.

In the New York Times article, “The New Noir, Not Always by Men or by Americans,” Jefferson writes that during “the 1970’s female writers started creating female detectives with the cynical integrity of the classic men. One of the first of these writers, Marcia Muller, remains one of the best.” Like her fellow male writers, Muller uses noir traditions such as “cities that are corrupt from top to bottom, law officers as cynical as the criminals they pursue, people driven by greed (for money, power, sex), and a pervasive sense that everyone has hidden motives and nothing is what it seems.” McCone must be as tough as her male colleagues to survive and thrive in such an environment.

Marilyn Stasio points out that Sharon McCone used to be “the genre’s grown-up Nancy Drew, a smart, if overly stern, private investigator who built her own agency in San Francisco and mainly represented poor people in desperate circumstances.” But now McCone flies her own plane and investigates cases of international intrigue.

McCone is not a static character in the series. “Relatively few long-running mystery series,” observes Bibel, “succeed in dramatizing a hero’s subtle changes over time, as he or she moves from one phase of life to another, but Muller’s Sharon McCone novels excel in this regard” (2007, 43). Since the 1990s, the series has been moving in the direction of the political thriller. With its new emphasis on bombings, international intrigues/conspiracies, and global issues, it has become a hybridized model – part private eye fiction and part political thriller (Walton 2008).

If you are looking for a novel with plenty of fast-faced action and a strong, intelligent female investigator, you will enjoy The Ever-Running Man.

Bibel, Barbara. “The Booklist Interview Marcia Muller.” Booklist 96, no. 17 (May I, 2000): 1596.

------. “The Ever-Running Man.” Booklist 103, no. 19/20 (June 1, 2007): 43.

Muller, Marcia. The Ever-Running Man. New York: Bantam, 2007.

Walton, Priscilla L. “Sharon McCone: From PI to Anti-Terrorist.” In Marcia Muller and the Female Private Eye: Essays on the Novels that Defined a Subgenre, edited by Alexander N. Howe and Christine A. Jackson, 79-91. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008.