Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Bill Crider, R.I.P.

Bill Crider warned us more than a year and a half ago that his remaining time among the living might be quite short, writing in his blog that he’d been diagnosed with “very aggressive” prostate cancer. “Looks bad,” he remarked in a July 2016 post. Yet it still came as something of a surprise last night when I read this Facebook message from his younger brother, Cox Robert “Bob” Crider:
My brother, Bill Crider, passed away this evening at 6:52 p.m. CST, Monday, February 12, 2018. It was a peaceful end to a strong body and intellectual mind.
During his three-decades-long writing career, Crider penned novels and short stories in a variety of genres. This English teacher turned author is probably best known for his humor-tinged mysteries starring Dan Rhodes, the necessarily resourceful sheriff of rural—and fictional—Blacklin County, Texas. (The opening entry in that series, 1986’s Too Late to Die, won him the Anthony Award for Best First Novel. A final, 24th installment, That Old Scoundrel Death, is due out later this year.) However, he also wrote science fiction, westerns, and horror yarns; produced a handful of books for younger readers (including 1990’s A Vampire Named Fred and its e-book sequel, A Werewolf Named Wayne); concocted, with Jack Davis, an entry in the long-running Nick Carter: Killmaster thriller series (1981’s The Coyote Connection); and even conspired with comedian/TV weatherman Willard Scott on a couple of cozy whodunits featuring—of course—a nationally recognized weather forecaster by the name of Stanley Waters. In an online interview from last November, Crider said, “I’ve written close to 100 books under both my own name and various pen names.”

Is it any wonder that media profiles of this Alvin, Texas, author so often referred to him as “prolific”?

Crider’s influence on the genre of crime and mystery fiction, though, actually pales in comparison to his impact on many of his fellow authors and readers. A frequent guest at the annual Bouchercon gatherings, and an avid supporter of other scribblers (I count myself as fortunate for having received a number of complimentary and encouraging e-mail notes from him over the years), Crider made numerous friends within the crime-fiction community. Mystery Fanfare’s Janet Rudolph describes him as “quiet, with a dry wit, warm, a true gentleman … Bill was always a class act and a true Renaissance man.” His Facebook page is awash today with memories of how Crider—seemingly always compassionate, attentive, generous, and knowledgeable—touched people’s hearts and made them laugh. “I don’t think I’ve ever met a kinder, gentler, more well-liked writer,” says author and Brash Books co-publisher Lee Goldberg. Another wordsmith, Richard Helms, calls Crider “a pal, a hell of a writer, one of the best of us.” And Seattle’s Vince Keenan, the co-author (with his wife, Rosemarie) of the Lillian Frost/Edith Head mysteries—published under their pseudonym, Renee Patrick—has this memory to share: “Bill was at the first-ever event Renee Patrick did on the road, making a point of driving in to Houston’s Murder by the Book so Rosemarie and I could count on seeing at least one friendly face. That’s the kind of person he was. I’ll miss talking books, movies, and baseball with him; I know how much it meant for him to see his Astros finally win a World Series last year. Safe travels, Bill. I’ll keep your books close at hand.”

Bill Crider poses in front of Edgar Allan Poe’s grave during Bouchercon 2008, held in Baltimore, Maryland.

Born in Mexia, Texas, on July 28, 1941, Bill Crider—cat lover, vintage music fan, all-star book collector, movies enthusiast, ardent blogger, voracious reader, poseur old grouch (his “Keep Off My Lawn” posts were persistently enjoyable), certified Dr Pepper addict, and the Web’s most popular authority on alligators and crocodiles—was 76 years old at the time of his demise. He outlived his wife, Judy, by slightly more than three years, but never forgot what it meant to be so loved.

I can’t think of a more fitting way to conclude this obituary than to quote something British writer Gary Dobbs said this morning: “Bill led a full life, died a courageous death, and his memory will be cherished not only by those who knew him personally but the many, many thousands of us to whom he offered the hand of digital friendship.”

FOLLOW-UP: Bill’s daughter, Angela Crider Neary‎, has posted this notice on his Facebook page: “A memorial service for Bill Crider will be held on Monday, February 19, at 1:00 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Alvin, Texas. In lieu of flowers, a donation to a public library of the donor’s choice would be appropriate.”

READ MORE:Bill Crider,” by Jacqueline Carmichael (Mystery Scene); “Bill Crider (1941-2018),” by Jerry House (Jerry’s House of Everything); “Interview: Bill Crider,” by Ben Boulden (Gravetapping); “Bill Crider, and Some of His Work and Play, Including Some Short Stories: The FFB Crider Celebration Week” (Socialist Jazz).


Rick Ollerman said...

Very nice post, Jeff. Bill will be very much missed. He was exactly the man everybody says he was.

Max Allan Collins said...

Bill's Pop Culture blog was something I checked several times a day. The Internet is not always a positive influence in one's life, but the fun his posts provided, including facts and reviews, were always small islands of joy, no matter how bad a day I might be having. Missing that blog in such a surprisingly profound way tells me how overall a great loss Bill's passing is. But how glad I am that he passed our way.

David Magayna said...

Well said, Jeff. Bill was a true gentleman.
When my wife passed a few months after Judy, Bill was one of the first from the mystery community to reach out. He offered his ear, his shoulder, and his heart, and that meant the world to me.
He will be sorely missed.

Gerard Saylor said...

I second Collins's comment. Crider's blog was a very big deal to me. I relied on him for entertainment, insight, and recommendations.

Unknown said...

I stumbled onto Sheriff Dan Rhodes, and couldn't put his tales of crime and crazy characters down! From book one to book 25, I enjoyed every page. When I heard of Mr. Crider's passing, and knew I'd never hear about Buddy, Hack, Lawton, and Speedo again... I cried. Thanks for the wonderful books!