Friday, December 15, 2017

Bill Crider Day on FFB, December 15, 2017

 (Note: I have to leave here at 9:00 am EST and will  not return to mid-afternoon, so latecomers will not be seated until then. Very sorry about this)

                     BILL CRIDER DAY ON Friday's Forgotten Books.

I have known Bill Crider since I began blogging in late 2005. It wasn't long before I stumbled onto his blog and like everyone was charmed by it. Two things drew us closer. He contributed a book review to my idea of looking at forgotten books on Fridays the very first week in 2007. 

I thought this endeavor would last a month or two, but Bill was in for the duration and contributed reviews every Friday for ten years. I asked him from time to time was he tired of doing it and he always said his only worry was he would run out of books to talk about. Of course, he never did. 

The second point of contact was when he was asked to edit a second volume of DAMN NEAR DEAD, put together by David Thompson. I was amazed and delighted when he asked me to contribute a story. This was early on and he was taking a chance, putting me in with far more illustrious writers. But that was the kind of guy he was, giving new writers a place in his world. Always encouraging, always humble.

I have only met Bill about three times and although we never have had a long conversation in person, I think we had them online through the many comments we shared about books and writers. There are few, if any, people in this business more loved than Bill. I hope today will prove that.  How many people could write so many books and still make time to review the books of others, to give a helping hand, to fill our world with jokes, music, musings, TV, movies.

If I had to choose a few words to describe Bill, they would be decent, kind, generous, talented, modest. How proud we all are to know him.  He has made our world a better place.

In Bill's own words for who could say it better. (This is from a few years back, before the VBKs, for instance. 

I was born and brought up in Mexia (that's pronounced Muh-HAY-uh by the natives), Texas. The town's most famous former citizen is Anna Nicole Smith, whom my brother taught in biology class when she was in the ninth grade. I've always lived in small Texas towns, unless you count Austin as a large town.  It wasn't so large when I lived there, though.  I attended The University of Texas at Austin for many, many years.  My wife (the lovely Judy) says that I would never have left grad school if she hadn't forced me to get out and get a real job.  I eventually earned my Ph.D. there, writing a dissertation on the hard-boiled detective novel,  and thereby putting my mystery-reading habit to good use.  Before that, I'd gotten my M.A. at the University of North Texas (in Denton), and afterward I taught English at Howard Payne University for twelve years. Then I moved to scenic Alvin, Texas, where until 2002 I was the Chair of the Division of English and Fine Arts. I retired in August 2002 to become a either a full-time writer or a part-time bum. Take your pick.

What kind of books do I write?  All kinds, but mostly mysteries.  The Sheriff Dan Rhodes series features the adventures of a sheriff in a small Texas county where there are no serial killers, where a naked man hiding in a dumpster is big news, and where the sheriff still has time to investigate the theft of a set of false teeth.  The first book in this series won an Anthony Award for "best first mystery novel" in 1986. The latest book in the series is Murder in Four Parts. (Eight books have followed this one)

I also write about a couple of college English teachers. Carl Burns teaches at a four-year school and is a reluctant amateur sleuth who, according to one reader's complaint, frequently gets beaten up by women.  He works at a small denominational college, and his latest case can be found in . . . a Dangerous Thing.  Sally Good is the chair of the English Department at a community college near the Texas Gulf Coast.  She's also a reluctant amateur sleuth, but nobody beats her up.  Check her out in A Knife in the Back. 

And then there's my private-eye steries.  Truman Smith operates on Galveston Island, not far from Houston.  The first book in the series was nominated for a Shamus Award by the Private-Eye Writers of America, but to date no one has had the wisdom ot publish the books in paperback, and the series is out of print.

But wait!  There's more!  Yes, I write nonseries books, too.  In the mystery field, there's The Texas Capitol Murders in which you get murder, politics, and a bunch of pretty odd characters, some of whom aren't even Texas legislators.  Blood Marks is my venture into serial killerdom, and it's completely different from anything else I've ever written.  It's bloody and violent and the reviewers (even Kirkus!) loved it.  Probably my best-selling book.

And that's not all.  I've even written children's books, including one based on the Wishbone TV show (Muttketeer!) and the award winning Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror.

And of course there are the westerns, including Outrage at Blanco and Texas Vigilante.

So what do I do in my spare time?  I run five or six days a week. I used to run in the afternoons, but now that I'm retired, I run in the early mornings.  In scenic Alvin, Texas, it doesn't make much difference.  It's always hot, and the humidity is always about like it is around the equator. 

And I listen to music. I have an extensive library of CDs, and I pop in whatever I'm in the mood to hear. Most of this music is from another era, which proves once and for all that I'm an old fogy, but I can't help it. Mostly I listen to New York doo-wop, rockabilly, The Platters, the Coasters, Buddy Holly, Elvis, Dion and the Belmonts, and any group or solo singer from the 1950s that you can think of. There's earlier stuff, too, like Les Paul and Mary Ford and the Ink Spots. I also like the music of the "folk era" of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Lots of that has been reissued on CD recently, and I'm an eager customer. Of course, I don't really hear the music most of the time; I tend to get so involved in the writing that everything around me disappears. But I like to think that the songs have some kind of subliminal effect and maybe even seep into the novel I'm working on. I'd love to write a book that was like a Buddy Holly record, with that same infectious sense of fun, or a book that caught the spirit of the end of the school year like the Jamies' "Summertime, Summertime." I have the five-CD set of Elvis' 1950s' masters and the four-CD Roy Orbison set, not to mention a lot of great stuff by the Everly Brothers, CDs containing all the records of the real Kingston Trio (the one with Dave Guard), the Atlantic "History of Rhythm and Blues" CDs, a double set by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, and more wonderful stuff than I can list here.

I'm also a big mystery fan: I've had a letter in every single issue (more than 150 now) of Cap'n Bob Napier's "letterzine," Mystery & Detective Monthly. I also do my own fanzine, Macavity, which appears in DAPA-Em, the only amateur press association devoted to mystery fiction. I haven't missed a mailing in more than twenty years.

And then there are the cats: Three of them. Geri, Speedo, and Sam. All three are different ages, and all three of them just turned up here. I was too soft-hearted to turn them away, so by now they've just about taken over the place. Not that anyone seems to mind.

From Jeff Meyerson

Bill Crider, The Texas Capitol Murders (1992).

It's tough for me to write about Bill Crider, especially under these terrible circumstances.  I've known Bill for 40 years (we met in person first in 1980, but knew each other through DAPA-EM and various mystery publications before that), and I consider him a good friend, so this is definitely not objective.  I've read the large majority of his books and have most of them inscribed by him, and one of the Sheriff Rhodes books was dedicated to me, a real honor.  Sheriff Rhodes would be an obvious choice, especially for someone who has never read one of his books, as to me the Sheriff books is closest to the 'voice' of the author.  But the other mystery series - Carl Burns, Sally Good, Galveston PI Truman Smith - as well as his horror novels (as by Jack MacLane) and westerns are also worth your time, as are the kids' books (like A Vampire Named Fred, an entertaining plea for tolerance for the undead) and short stories (many involving cats).

I thought I'd go with this one however, the one praised by former First Lady (of Texas, then) Laura Bush.  It's historical, it's funny, it's political, and it's great fun.  What more could you want?   A supposedly promiscuous Mexican-American cleaner is found murdered in a dumpster outside the Texas Capitol during its renovations, possibly seen by homeless vagrant Wayne the Wagger, not really a reliable or helpful witness.  Then there is the dumb as dirt, paranoid Governor, the powerful State Senator and his closeted bisexual aide, naive tour guides, lobbyists and drug dealers, and the Texas Ranger called in to solve the murders (yes, there are more than one).

I've never been to Austin or the State Capitol, but those who have done have testified as to the accuracy of the portrayals, and you really can't go wrong here.  I just hope it isn't true that we've seen the last of Bill's books.

From Deb Pfeifer

Unlike many people, I did not come to Patti’s blog through Bill Crider’s but rather the reverse: I found Patti’s blog about eight years ago and from her blog roll discovered many others, including Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine.  I lurked there for a while before I posted a comment, but eventually I joined the fray and never looked back. Patti’s, Bill’s, and George Kelley’s blogs are always the first three I read every morning.

Bill’s obvious intelligence, unfailing good humor, kindness, and decency are apparent in everything he writes. His overwhelming love for Judy and their children shines through in the various essays and remembrances he occasionally posts. His mind is sharp, but never cruel, and he can always be relied on for a gentle, long-term take on events that have me ranting with indignation. His reviews are always on the generous side—he does not like to post negative reviews and always tries to find something positive to say about even the most critically-drubbed movie or book.

I only got to meet Bill in person once, but I’m so glad I had that opportunity: last year in New Orleans at Boucheron (where I also met Jeff & Jackie Meyerson, George & Diane Kelley, and—right as we were taking photos—Art Scott). Although obviously tired from his recent medical treatments, Bill was in good spirits and spent quite some time talking with my husband, John.  (As soon as we got back home, John went to the library and checked out some of Bill’s books. I think right now he’s read more of Bill’s books than I have.)

It’s still hard for me to comprehend that Bill has decided to discontinue his blog. There will be no more posts of the Song of the Day (a reflection of Bill’s wide-ranging and eclectic tastes), Thin Mints Melees, Texas Leading the Way, WBAGNFARB, Stay off His Lawn, Is There A Problem Officer?, and many others.  One of Bill’s frequent tag lines was Yet Another List I’m Not On, but there is a list I’m on, along with a lot of others, and that is people whose lives have been made richer by knowing (no matter how tangentially) Bill Crider.

Sharon Lynch

I was unable to copy from Facebook Sharon Lynch's words about Bill. However she admired him and was hoping to meet him in Toronto, which she did. And was so glad she did. 

MURDER OF A BEAUTY SHOP QUEEN, Bill Crider (Patti Abbott)

Bill Crider makes writing delightful books look easy. In fact, it is not easy to combine a satisfying crime and its solution with great characters, terrific local color, a wry sense of humor., and a style of writing easy to digest. Sheriff Dan Rhoades solves crimes and keeps order (and it is not always simple with a domestic animal population that is as troublesome as their owners, and in the case of feral pigs, no owners) down in Blacklin County, Texas.
In this outing from 2012, Lynn Ashton, a pretty hair stylist has been bashed over the head with a hair dryer. Suspects range from scorned lovers, to jealous wives, to two outsiders who have been scraping the town. Or maybe Lynn saw something she shouldn't have as she waited for a rendezvous with one of her clients. The characters, both new and old, all are the beneficiaries of inventive character development and the conclusion is satisfying and solid.

Yvette Banek, TOO LATE TO DIE 
Paul Bishop
Ben Boulden, TOP OF THE WORLD 
Fleur Bradley
Cap'n Bob
Max Allan Collins,
David Cranmer
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards. Bill 
Lee Goldberg
Charles Gramlich, BILL CRIDER DAY
Lesa Holstine
George Kelley, GOOD NIGHT, MOOM 
Kate Laity, Bill Crider's Sherlock
B.V. Lawson, Bill Crider
Evan Lewis, The Secrets of Bill Crider's 1990 Bookshelves ; Visual Bibliography
Brian Lindenmuth (Spinetinger Magazine) Interview with Bill 
Richard Lupoff
Todd Mason
Richard Moore
Karin Montin
Scott Parker
The Rap Sheet, THE BLOG (to come)
Reactions in Reading, TOO LATE TO DIE 
James Reasoner, Best Bill 
Richard Robinson, Bill Crider's Holmes Stories
Janet Rudolph
Gerard Saylor, Bill Crider's Novels 
Charlie Stella
Kevin Tipple,  FAST TRACK (with Ed Gorman), THE BLACKIN COUNTY FILES
Dave Zeltserman, PIANO MAN 

 Aubrey Hamilton said...
Many, many years ago I began posting about the books I read to DorothyL and every time I mentioned reading a Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery, Bill Crider wrote to thank me. It was unnecessary but pleased me inordinately, even more so when I did a little research and saw just how many books he'd published. He certainly didn't need me to promote his books. When I heard him speak at a conference, I was entertained because he talked just like I imagined Sheriff Rhodes did. If anything could make me admire him more, it was his rescue of Keneau, the abandoned kitten, and, after everyone urged him to return to the place he found her, he located her siblings, to whom he has given the greatest care. Bill is a rare soul and I am fortunate to have met him.


Kevin R. Tipple said...

My post for today is a double take review of THE BLACKLIN COUNTY FILES short story collection at This is one Barry Ergang and I did a few years ago with a new intro appropriate to today.

I also will be gone much of the day. Blah.


Anonymous said...

Great to see so many different approaches to Bill Crider's work - thanks Patti.

YA Sleuth said...

Great post to get to know Bill better. I had no idea he wrote a children's book--I'll be checking it out...

Todd Mason said...

Several, Fleur...see Evan Lewis's post for the covers...he wrote for the WISHBONE series while I was working with PBS at TV GUIDE.

It's quite a isn't too surprising, given the man being honored...

Charles Gramlich said...

I didn't know about the Children's book either. Cool.

Yvette said...

My post is up now, Patti, for when you get a chance. Thanks for introducing me to Bill Crider's work along the way and spreading the word about what a good man he is. We need good men these days.

Todd Mason said...

Angela Crider Neary on attending 2017 Toronto Bouchercon with her father Bill Crider

Todd Mason said...

James T. Cameron: We'll Always Have Murder: A Humphrey Bogart Mystery by Bill Crider

Evan Lewis said...

Thanks for doing this, Patti. Cap'n Bob Napier has a post here:

Chris said...

I couldn't contribute a Crider review, but I do have a Crider story. I found his blog years ago, when I briefly got obsessed over a book called Progeny of the Adder, by Leslie Whitten--and its similarities to the book version of The Night Stalker, by Jeff Rice, which was the basis for the famous TV movie starring Darren McGavin with a teleplay by Richard Matheson.

Searching around, I found a brief squib on Crider's blog. He'd come across the Whitten book, enjoyed it, and he said that he'd written to his fellow novelist, telling him he had a good case for plagiarism against the TV producers who did the Kolchak shows. Whitten (also a successful investigative journalist, who contributed to Jack Anderson's column) wrote back saying it wasn't worth the effort.

I chipped in my two cents, about having cross-compared Adder with Rice's book, that got published as a cross-promotional deal with the first TV movie, and finding the similarities were much more marked there. (I'll always believe it was direct and intentional plagiarism on Rice's part, that Matheson and the producers never knew about until it was too late--but it could never be proven).

He was glad to know it wasn't just him who noticed. But HE noticed just on the basis of having compared Whitten's novel with Matheson's teleplay, which changed (and greatly improved) Rice's story.

Sharp eye. Sharp mind. And somebody who stuck up for his fellow wordsmiths. That would be my first and only impression of Bill Crider. I hope to learn more by reading his stuff. Been busy.

Rick Robinson said...

Thanks so much for doing this, Patti.

Todd Mason said...

Wow, Chris. Whitten just died the other day.

"Mr. Whitten wrote nearly a dozen novels in all, including his 1965 debut “Progeny of the Adder,” about a vampire who dumps his victims in the Potomac River, and his 1967 follow-up “Moon of the Wolf,” about a werewolf in small-town Mississippi. The book was adapted into a 1972 ABC Movie of the Week starring David Janssen.

"The success of a 1976 political novel, “Conflict of Interest,” which featured an alcoholic speaker of the House and a few salacious bedroom scenes, led him to step away from his job at the Merry-Go-Round. He continued to contribute to the column part-time for several years."

Paul Bishop said...

My addition to the tribute...

David Cranmer said...

Thanks for doing this, Patti. And thanks Todd for bringing it to my attention. My thoughts here:

Todd Mason said...

Karin Montin: Meeting Bill Crider <

Todd Mason said...

Kate Laity: Eight Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Bill Crider

Janet Rudolph said...

How wonderful! Thanks, Patti, for doing this. I love his children's book A Vampire Named Fred (1990). One of my faves.. I have a link to a short tribute to him. I love Bill...great books, great writer, great man! One of the best!

Todd Mason said...

Richard Lupoff on Bill Crider

TracyK said...

Patti, thanks so much for doing this. I spent my morning reading all the posts so far and I will come back and reread them again.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Great job with this. Thanks. For some unknown reason, Blogger suddenly hates me and keeps deleting all my posts from the computer, but I think posting from the phone may work.

Chris said...

Todd, I hadn't read about Whitten's passing. Spooky coincidence. Probably my favorite of his books so far is The Alchemist, which is also DC intrigue.

I'd give much to hear his take on DC over the past year. His fiction is solid, but there are times when investigative journalism can be seen as the higher calling.

Cap'n Bob said...

My blog has reminiscences and photos of Bill, Judy, and me. Evan Lewis gave a link, above, but I'll repeat it here:

There's also a reprinting of a very short story Bill write in 1993.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

This is touching...damn the illness.

Aubrey Hamilton said...

Many, many years ago I began posting about the books I read to DorothyL and every time I mentioned reading a Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery, Bill Crider wrote to thank me. It was unnecessary but pleased me inordinately, even more so when I did a little research and saw just how many books he'd published. He certainly didn't need me to promote his books. When I heard him speak at a conference, I was entertained because he talked just like I imagined Sheriff Rhodes did. If anything could make me admire him more, it was his rescue of Keneau, the abandoned kitten, and, after everyone urged him to return to the place he found her, he located her siblings, to whom he has given the greatest care. Bill is a rare soul and I am fortunate to have met him.

Scott D. Parker said...

I posted mine on my author blog and will repost tomorrow at Do Some Damage:

Todd Mason said...

Bill on Facebook this afternoon: "Overwhelmed by kind thoughts and appreciation of me and my work. Wish I could write more. Can't."

Jerry House said...

My internet was down all day Friday, Patti, so I couldn't respond until now.

I have three other posts about Bill: a Friday Forgotten Crider entry, the short story 'The Marching Madmen;" a collection of Youtube videos featuring the VBKs; and a few songsfrom the sadly ignored The Fabulous G-Strings, the hardest working band at Alvin Community College.

Thank you so much for sponsoring this tribute to a wonderful guy!

Terry said...

Patti, I just found this thread this morning, Saturday, and have enjoyed reading all these reminisces. I have a couple of my own to recount. I met Bill at a conference and found out he lived in Alvin, which was close to where I grew up. We had some chat about it. A couple of years later I started looking for an agent for a book I had written. It seemed daunting and it occurred to me that it might be clever to have a "blurb" to put in the query letter. Since I was writing about an older chief of police in a small town in Texas, I thought of Bill. I wrote and asked him if he would consider reading the book and giving me a blurb for my query letter. In typical Bill Crider fashion, he said he'd be glad to, although he didn't know whether it would be worth much! I knew it was worth gold. And it was. The agent I signed with was drawn in by his blurb.

Fast forward a couple of years and a few books under my belt. I was doing a signing at Murder by the Book in Houston, and who walked in, but Bill! I couldn't stop grinning. I couldn't have been happier. What a hero!

Todd Mason said...

I see you found Vicci's from those whose items I hosted...she did express the anger at Bill's fate we all share, I think, rather succinctly. (I know her through Fiction-L, a librarian-heavy list...she's a Texas librarian.)

Jim Cameron's new review is still missing from the blogroll. He's mostly a jazz blogger, but as he notes he was a POP CULTURE MAGAZINE regular reader in correspondence with Bill, who picked up a few entries for his blog from Jim over the years...Bill and Jim, like you, Patti, and Jerry and frequently others who might read this, have been regulars on the Monthly Underappreciated Music roundelay, too...

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