Marcia Muller

McCone And Friends

A book in the Sharon McCone series, 1999

For Sandi and Doug Greene,

Good People,

Good Publishers


Sharon McCone was conceived in 1971, when an insistent and sometimes annoying woman’s voice inside my head began demanding I pay attention to her. For months I’d been toying with the idea of creating a female counterpart to the male private investigators whose adventures I so loved reading about; now, it seemed, she wanted to be heard. But as insistent as she sounded, at first she gave me few clues as to her identity. In fact, she seemed more intent upon impressing on me who and what she was not.

She was not the kind of private detective who has a bottle stashed in the desk drawer. She was not emotionally immune to the depressing and often tragic events she encountered on San Francisco’s mean streets. She did not operate out of a shabby, one-woman down-town office. She was not a loner.

Well, fine. But who and what was she?

Some of the specifics proved surprisingly easy to pin down, for I sensed a close kinship between us from the start. She was the kind of woman who liked her wine but didn’t let it interfere with business. She was an emotional, caring woman who fully interacted with the world and those around her. She worked for an organization whose philosophy and goals reflected her humanitarian sentiments-All Souls Legal Cooperative, a poverty-law firm. And she had family, friends, love interests.

The family, friends, and love interests developed slowly over five years of writing manuscripts that can only be described as learning experiences. When the first McCone novel, Edwin of the Iron Shoes, finally saw publication in 1977, Sharon possessed a large, mostly dysfunctional clan based in San Diego; a boss who had been her closest male friend at University of California, Berkeley; another friend who provided information that enabled her to crack this first case; and a potential lover. Over the ensuing 21 years she has acquired a large (and somewhat confusing, even to the author) circle of friends and associates.

In 1993 I began to experiment with the voice of some of these friends in a number of short stories in which McCone would be viewed through their eyes and sometimes upstaged by their detecting abilities-my way of keeping her fresh and multi-faceted in my own mind, while trying to entertain the reader in a different way than in the novels. These tales, along with three stories form Sharon’s point of view, are collected for the first time in McCone and Friends.

Rae Kelleher, who narrates two of the stories, initially appeared as McCone’s new assistant in There’s Something in a Sunday (1989), and was the first employee Sharon hired when she moved her new agency from All Souls Legal Cooperative to their present offices in Pier 24 ?. Rae also narrated sections of The Broken Promise Land (1996); the events set in motion there will culminate when she marries McCone’s former brother-in-law (Listen to the Silence, 2000). Both of Rae’s tales, “The Wall” and “The Holes in the System,” date from the period while she and McCone were still employed at All Souls.

Mick Savage, McCone’s nephew, first appeared in the 1990 short story, “Silent Night” (collected in The McCone Files, 1995), in which he ran away from his southern California home and his aunt was forced to track him down on Christmas Eve. Still a troubled young man, he was sent to work for her in Till the Butchers Cut Him Down (1992), and soon revolutionized her operations with his computer expertise. In “One Final Arrangement,” he and another McCone operative, Charlotte Keim, work along with her to prevent a killer from inheriting his missing wife’s fortune.

Ted Smalley, originally secretary and later office manager at All Souls, also accompanied McCone Investigations to their new headquarters, and has emerged from a crossword-solver who didn’t even possess a last name to one of the most significant characters in the series. He represents San Francisco’s gay community, and his personal problems formed a major plot element of While Other People Sleep (1998). In “Up at the Riverside,” Ted’s membership in this community allow him to give McCone insights into a decades-old crime.

Hy Ripinsky, McCone’s long-term lover, seldom interferes with her investigations. Although he himself is an expert on hostage-negotiation and a partner in an international corporate security firm, he keeps his distance while she’s working-having learned from “long and sometimes hellacious experience” that this is the wisest course. However, in “Recycle,” Ripinsky is prompted to depart from his “hands-off attitude.”

One of the McCone stories, “Knives at Midnight,” is another case she reluctantly shares-this time with her older brother John, who first intruded onto her investigative turf in Wolf in the Shadows (1993). The other two, “If You Can’t Take the Heat,” and “Solo,” reflect her growing love of flight and understanding of the world of aviation.

I hope the stories collected here will display new aspects of Sharon McCone’s character, as well as better acquaint you, the reader, with other ongoing series characters. More important, I hope that when McCone soars into the air on the last page, you’ll have enjoyed these glimpses into the world she and her friends inhabit!

Marcia Muller

Petaluma, California

September 30, 1999


(Sharon McCone)

The private investigation business has been glamorized to death by writers and filmmakers, but I can tell you firsthand that more often than not it’s downright tedious. Even though I own a small agency and have three operatives to take on the scut work, I still conduct a fair number of surveillances while twisted into unnatural positions in the front seat of my car, or standing in the rain when any fool would go inside. Last month I leaped at the chance to take on a job with a little more pizzazz-and even then ended up to my neck in mud. Quite literally.

The job came to me from a contact at a small air-charter company-Wide Horizons-located at Oakland Airport’s North Field. I fly in and out of there frequently, both in the passenger’s and pilot’s seat of my friend Hy Ripinsky’s Citabria, and when you’re around an airport a lot, you get to know people. When Wide Horizons’ owner, Gordon Tillis, became nervous about a pair of regular customers, he called me into his office.

“Here’s the problem,” he told me. “For three months now, Sam Delaney’s been flying what he calls ‘a couple of babes’ to Calistoga, in the Napa Valley. Always on the same day-the last Wednesday. On the flight there they’re tense, clutch at their briefcases, don’t talk much. A limo picks them up, they’re gone a few hours. And when they

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