Friday, December 15, 2017

Bill Crider, and some of his work and play, including some short stories: the FFB Crider Celebration Week

The Next Edition Quartet: Bill Crider, Ed Looby, Gary Logsdon and Richard Wolfe: "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"

Bill Crider: How I Became a Mystery Fan

Karin Montin: Meeting Bill Crider

Victoria Kemp on Bill Crider

Richard Lupoff on Bill Crider

Richard Moore on longtime fellow-fandom and Bill's Truman Smith novels

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

Curtis Evans: Romanced to Death by Bill Crider

Todd Mason:
I first "met" Bill Crider virtually, via the discussion groups on the web or which used email to distribute posts to the correspondents (or, eventually, both)...someone, I've managed to forget whom, was running a western-fiction discussion forum, Read the West, on the web, which rather suddenly shut down...but not before I became aware of discussion groups such as WesternPulps, conducted by James Reasoner, and Rara-Avis, conducted by William Denton. Though old friends and fellow crime-fiction fans and/or DAPA-EM contributors such as James and Richard Robinson contributed to the R-A list earlier, Bill's first post I can find on Rara-Avis is this:

Bill Crider [at his Alvin Community College address]
Sat, 26 Sep 1998 08:58:53 -0500

I've been lurking on this list for quite a while now, and I know there's some interest in the books of Robert Skinner. I thought the first two books (BLOOD RED, SKIN DEEP and CAT-EYED TROUBLE) were excellent. I was eagerly looking forward to the third book in the series. But now I may never see it. Kensington had the book set in print, had the cover designed, and even had bound galleys done. But the swine canceled publication! "Not enough advance orders" was the official reason given. If you've ever given thought to boycotting a publisher or writing an irate letter, Kensington is a deserving target. Bill Crider

...Rara-Avis always has encouraged a certain feistiness, as well as a certain likelihood that justice might be called for (and certainly Kensington has had more than a few sins to atone for over the decades). I joined there in the next year, along with FictionMags (where Bill would eventually join us in 2004) and WesternPulps. 

Bill was a consistently gracious and good-humored contributor, as you've probably experienced or very likely read from others if you're reading this when it's posted, on our Friday Books Celebrate Bill day...the late Mario Taboada and I would eventually begin conducting Rara-Avis when Bill Denton wanted to step away, and the flow of discussion there and on WesternPulps has slowed considerably over the years, with occasional flurries of new discussion and no lack of good contributors still subscribing. But, for many of us not excluding Bill most of the discussion started to move onto blogs (and Facebook, though Bill was less engaged there) by the mid 2000s. 

Bill Crider interviewed (via video chat) on Debbi Mack's The Crime Cafe, 2015

Bill was a poet even before a published fiction writer...sometime over the last couple of years, he took down the poetry and life-as-a-runner blogs he had going alongside Bill Crider's Popular Culture Magazine, and I've missed them.  I'm not sure how many of his short stories (a very few, I think) appeared before his first novel, The Coyote Connection (Ace/Charter 1981, with Jack Davis--not the cartoonist, but at the time a carpoolmate) a collaborative entry in the revived Nick Carter series (which had the venerable detective recast as a Men's Adventure Series spy or "Killmaster"). But I thought I'd cast around for a few of his stories for this week's FFB in books I've been meaning to write up for the Friday Books roundelay.

Quite probably the first time I saw Bill's byline was on the story "Wolf Night" in Ed Gorman's anthology, a mix of reprinted and original stories, the latter including Bill's, Westeryear (M. Evans, 1988). I picked up a library discard copy of the large print edition sometime around 1993-4,  Bill gets to have some fun with this historical western, touching on his love of  B and modestly-budgeted A western films, and horror films from the same era and level of studio support, in this tale of a strange menace attacking the women of a small Texas town in the post-Civil War era...but only on the nights with a full moon...and how the European immigrant schoolteacher in the town knows what might explain this, and what might be needed to stop this slaughter. You're likely to guess at least one of the surprises Bill has planted in this story as it reaches its conclusion, but he is having such fun with this, and sharing that fun, that I doubt you'll be too impatient in your anticipation. 

Rosalind and Martin Harry Greenberg and Charles Waugh's 14 Vicious Valentines (Avon, 1988) was an almost all-original anthology of short stories, and Bill's then new "My Heart Cries for You" is a much more thoroughly grim and noirish affair...there's some humor, including a few jokes that I suspect Bill might not've cracked not too long after he wrote this three decades or so ago, but which can be taken in stride when one considers these characters making the joking references are even more pathetic versions of the kind of "mean furniture" John D. MacDonald, and no few of the other writers Bill admired who were most active in the '50s and '60s, would describe.  The attempt at a long con, between a sort of low-rent Lothario and the woman who disgusts him, and her brother who hopes to have the protagonist bump her off, is well-told and has a very deeply felt sort of cosmic justice built into its climax. You might also detect a hint of Dortmunder or Ron Goulart characters in the attempts our anti-hero makes.

Karen and Joe R. Lansdale's Dark at Heart (Dark Harvest, 1992) feature's Bill's "An Evening Out with Karl", a leaner and even more vicious exploration of some of the same motifs at play in "My Heart Cries for You"; Karl is a predator, looking for tonight's woman Who Is Asking For It, It being a brutal rape if Karl can pull it off. So far, he's been able to avoid capture, and nearly half the too-numerous women he's assaulted haven't even reported the attack to the police, as far as he can tell. Karl prefers to do his hunting in small dance clubs, never visiting any two twice, then usually follows his victim home, breaking in while wearing his ski mask. This night, however...things don't go as planned. The sense of rough justice is also on display here, and some of the jokes in "My Heart..." are turned around in this one, literally as well as figuratively. Probably not a story you'd tell your children before bedtime (as this anthology isn't reaching for that sort of story at all), but if one wondered if Bill was sublimating some of his angrier impulses in some of his fiction, particularly these short stories, it wouldn't seem too wild a surmise. 

Jayme Blaschke interviewed folks at the 2016 ArmadilloCon, to help raise the spirits of Bill, who couldn't attend. A number of these brief statements are at this link, and here's Joe R. Lansdale's contribution:

Others are likely to cite Bill's work as a writer of nonfiction about crime fiction and popular culture, and at least one contributor to this blogpile was hoping to write about Bill's blogging work particularly, which leads me to mention one of his last regular deadline-hitting tasks, along with his contributions to Friday's Forgotten Books, the (real soon now) to be revived and regular Tuesday's Overlooked A/V, and Monthly Underappreciated Music roundelays: his continuation of the "Blog Bytes" column Ed Gorman had started in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine...which, we hope, might the current issue, one of Bill's columns is in place, but one suspects that there're not too many more in inventory at this time. Bill has cited most of the blogs he frequents which have some notable amount of attention to crime fiction, including this one, which got Sweet Freedom one of the biggest spikes in its viewership/readership it's had. And that only one of the smaller services Bill has performed for so many of  his friends and acquaintances, and the readers of his fiction and nonfiction and the fiction he's loved. And only a small token of his kindness toward me, and his willingness (as with James Reasoner, John Grant, Patti Abbott and others) to help out librarians and others trying to find "lost" and poorly-remembered items for their patrons and others...something I engage in through several mailing lists I'm still a member of. 

 Among Bill's "Very Bad Kittens"/VBKs videos...a fairly recent one, of them as young adult cats...

Bill is a wonderful man, and an excellent writer, and now a blasted disease is taking him much as it took his beloved wife Judy not so long ago, and leaving his adult kids and siblings...and Bill's cats, a trio of siblings who've become a very popular feature of Bill's Facebook account, and all his good friends and the rest of us that much less excellent company in this life. We hope, if you haven't read his work before, that this set of remembrances might nudge you along. I've met him face to face only once, at the mildly 9/11-haunted 2001 Bouchercon only a few miles from the Pentagon, but he's been a consistently good man to know, and I wish there was more I could do to make things better for him. He's certainly done a lot for a lot of us.

Bill Crider, Angela Crider Neary and Dana Cameron at the 2017 Bouchercon courtesy EQMM
 Angela Crider Neary on attending the 2017 Toronto Bouchercon with Bill.

Bill Crider on Facebook, 15 December 2017: Overwhelmed by kind thoughts and appreciation of me and my work. Wish I could write more. Can't.

For links to, and hosting some of, this week's reviews, remembrance and more, please see Patti Abbott's blog.


George said...

Great tribute to Bill Crider! You captured the essence of his wit and humor! Well done!

Todd Mason said...

Thank you, George. I must go look at yours...

Jim C. said...

Nice work, Todd. I posted a Crider review myself.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks! You did...and an excellent one!

Mathew Paust said...

Wonderful, Todd. I posted the VBK video on Facebook (my daughter loves cats). Owimoweh Owimoweh...

Todd Mason said...

Thanks, Matt! It is one of my favorites of their box videos. Jerry House has posted a slew of VBK videos...