Thursday, February 15, 2018

Recapping Crider’s Career

I did my best in putting together a Bill Crider obituary earlier this week, but Jiro Kimura’s recollections of that much-loved Texas mystery novelist add a variety of valuable details to my overview. Here’s what Kimura wrote today at The Gumshoe Site:
As most of you may know by now, Bill Crider (full name: Allen Billy Crider) died of prostate cancer on February 12 at his Alvin, Texas, home in hospice care. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, writing a doctoral dissertation on hard-boiled detective fiction, and taught English at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, and Alvin Community College. He had been a book collector and knew everything—well, almost everything—about old paperback books. I have known his name since he was a regular contributor for several mystery fanzines in the 1970s, such as The Armchair Detective, The Poisoned Pen, and The Mystery Fancier.

His first published novel was
The Coyote Connection (Charter, 1981), a Nick Carter spy novel, [written] under the house name of “Nick Carter,” co-written with his friend Jack Davis, while his first sold short story was “A Right to Be Dead” (printed in [the] now-defunct Canadian Black Cat Mystery Magazine, 1981), co-written with his Texas friend Joe R. Lansdale. His real first novel under his own name was Too Late to Die (Walker, 1986), the first Sheriff Dan Rhodes book, which won the 1987 Anthony Award. The prolific writer created a number of series characters, including Carl Burns (a college professor in Texas introduced in One Dead Dean, 1988), Truman Smith (a private eye in Texas introduced in Dead on the Island, 1991), Dr. Sally Good, the head of the English department of a Texas college introduced in Murder Is an Art, 1999), Stanley Waters (a retired weatherman introduced in Murder Under Blue Skies, 1998; co-written with Willard Scott, a weatherman), Ted Stephens (a homicide detective sergeant in Texas introduced in Houston Homicide, 2007; co-written with Clyde Wilson, “Houston's most public private eye”), and Bill Ferrel (a pre-war Hollywood private eye/troubleshooter featured only in short stories). He also wrote horror novels (Keepers of the Beast, l988) under the Jack MacLane pseudonym, YA books (Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror, 1997), western mystery novels (Ryan Rides Back, 1988), as well as standalone novels (Blood Marks, 1991).

In the 2000s, I asked him to write a series of mystery essays for
Giallo, a Japanese quarterly mystery magazine for which I was an editorial consultant, and he kindly accepted my offer. His most recent Sheriff Rhodes novel was Dead, to Begin With (St. Martin’s, 2017), and I heard the next and probably last Rhodes novel will be out sometime this year. His most recent Rhodes short story, “Tell the Bees,” was printed in Vol. 1, Issue 2 of Down & Out: The Magazine. Oh, I forgot to tell you that he was a tremendously nice guy. He was 76.
Meanwhile, you will find Crider’s official obituary here.

Ali Karim points me toward this video, shot during Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina, that shows Crider’s participation in a rather wonderful panel discussion titled “The Masters That Influenced the Masters” (also featuring Karin Slaughter, Lawrence Block, Megan Abbott, and moderator Mark Coggins).

And blogger-author Evan Lewis showcases Crider’s lesser-known talents as a musician singer. See his posts here and here.

Finally, I just rediscovered something Crider wrote for January Magazine back in 2005, when that publication (which I help edit) was celebrating The Maltese Falcon’s 75th year in print. I believe his remarks about that novel are worth sharing again:
I first heard of Dashiell Hammett when I was a kid in the late 1950s. One of my cousins married a man whose last name was Dashiell and who was supposedly related to Hammett, to whom he referred as “that goddamned commie.” I didn’t think much of it at the time, but by the early 1960s I was reading a lot of paperback originals, particularly the Gold Medal books. A couple of them mentioned Hammett in the blurbs, and I figured it was time for me to find out what kind of books he wrote. I looked around the paperback racks for his novels but didn’t find any, so I went to the library and checked out Red Harvest.

It’s no exaggeration to say that reading that book was a life-changing experience for me. I can’t explain it now any better than I can explain Einstein’s theories, and I know that plenty of people who read the book for the first time these days are left cold by it. But for me, this story of small-town corruption told in the first-person by the Continental Op really hit home. I immediately checked out the rest of Hammett’s novels, and was amazed at how different they were from one other.

The one I liked best was
The Maltese Falcon. I was convinced that it was more than just the best private-eye novel I’d ever read. It was literature of a high order, and Hammett, “that goddamned commie,” was a hell of a writer.

Years later, I went on to write mystery novels of my own. None of them come within light years of Hammett’s work, but
The Maltese Falcon and his other novels remain touchstones for me, the books I judge others by. And if the others, including my own, come up short, it’s only because they’re being compared to the top of the line.
READ MORE:The Passing of Bill Crider,” by S.D. Parker.


K. A. Laity said...


Mathew Paust said...

Thanks for this!