Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Special guest: Edgar Award nominee Bill Crider

As he has long been a friend and supporter of Murder By The Book and the mystery world in general, it made us all proud when Alvin, Texas, mystery writer Bill Crider earned an Edgar Award nomination for his darkly comic short tale, "Cranked" (in Damn Near Dead / read it here for free!). His 16th Sheriff Dan Rhodes novel, Murder in Four Parts (St. Martin's Minotaur), pubs in February. The Dan Rhodes books are a lot of fun, but personally, my favorite works of his are the five featuring Galveston private eye Truman Smith. Find his own blog at billcrider.blogspot.com, but he graciously contributed an entry for BFP's. Read on...


When David Thompson asked me to write something for his Busted Flush Blog, I was flattered, but I didn’t really know what I could say. After all, I have my own wildly popular blog to attend to.

But then it occurred to me that I never really write anything for my own blog. Well, aside from a few movie and book reviews, I mean. Other than that, I just put in stuff I pick up from my web surfing, whatever amuses me. So maybe there was something I could write about for David, after all. He gave me plenty of leeway. In fact, he said:

"It can be about ANYTHING... it does NOT need to have anything to do with the press, Murder By The Book, our authors, nothing... it can be about whatever you want it to be, as long as it's mystery/crime related... your favorite author no one knows about... your writing habits... your favorite living writers... your top ten books... all of the above?"

Ah, my writing habits. I remember the good old days when I had them. I was a very self-disciplined guy once upon a time, mainly because I had to be. I had a full-time job as the chair of the Division of English and Fine Arts at Alvin Community College, so I could write only in what I laughingly referred to as my "spare time," that is, the time not spent teaching class, holding office hours, going to meetings, and grading papers. Not to mention having a family life. Mainly that meant writing after seven in the evenings, and that’s what I did for many years. Somehow I managed to produce fifty or sixty novels between the publication of the first Sheriff Dan Rhodes book in 1985 and my retirement from the college in 2002. That’s a lot of books per year, but I was an English major, so you’ll have to do the math on your own if you want to know what the average is. My lack of math skills also explains why I don’t know exactly how many books I wrote. I’m not the kind to keep track. For all I know, it might have been more.

What? You say you’ve seen my bibliography and it didn’t include that many books? That’s because a lot weren’t published under my own name. Only the mysteries and westerns were "Bill Crider" books. The horror novels were done by "Jack MacLane," and all the others were done under various house names. Some of those are an open secret, but the others are so secret that no one will ever know. Except me and maybe one or two others, that is.
How did I write so much? Seat of the pants in the seat of the chair. Every night. And I mean every night, birthdays, holidays, and all. For years and years I never missed a day. It can be done.

Now that I’ve retired from the college, I don’t write as much and my discipline is lax. Laziness is part of it, and of course I’ve found other ways to spend my time, like blogging. And, sad to say, publishers aren’t knocking down my door these days. In fact I just turned in the final book of a two-book contract with St. Martin’s. With the turmoil the publishing world is in right now, who knows what the future might hold. Not me. I may find that I’ve retired from the writing game. We’ll just have to wait and see.

As for Murder by the Book, I was thinking about the store the other day when I went in for the little celebration they had in honor of McKenna Jordan’s assuming the mantle of ownership. I first visited the store in the late summer or early fall of 1983, not long after we moved to Alvin. I’d attended my first meeting of the Houston MWA chapter with a friend, and he suggested we drop by. I met Martha Farrington that day, and I believe Dean James might have been there as well. McKenna wasn’t there. She was about two years old, and if you think that makes me feel ancient, you’re absolutely right.

And then there’s David Thompson’s Busted Flush Press. What can I say? It was my story in a Busted Flush book, Damn Near Dead, that brought me my only Edgar nomination, so I’ll always have a warm place in my heart for Busted Flush, and for David and Duane Swierczynski, (the editor) who gave me the chance to write the story. I think small presses like this one might well be the wave of the future. They’re publishing some wonderful books, both originals and reprints, and given the chaos in big-time publishing these days, the small presses have a great opportunity to shine.

Okay, I didn’t write about everything that David mentioned, but that’s probably more than enough. I’ll stop now. Thanks for the loan of the forum, David. [You're welcome, Bill!]


Todd Mason said...

Always glad to find there might've been another decent writer ("MacLane"--McCloud's cousing?)with Zebra during its heyday, when half the line seemed to be Ruby Jean Jensen and William Johnstone potboilers. Rick Hautala seemed a lonely voice.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I really enjoyed this. Although we read your blog, you're right. It doesn't tell us much about you. Thanks for filling in some gaps. Maybe we need to have a "tell us more about yourself" day sometime.