Friday, December 15, 2017

Karin Montin: Meeting Bill Crider

Meeting Bill Crider
Bill at the 2010 San Francisco Bouchercon

I first heard of Bouchercon, the world’s biggest convention for mystery fans (and authors) through Rara-Avis, an online discussion group devoted to hardboiled and noir writing. Bill Crider was a frequent contributor. I couldn’t miss the 2004 con in Toronto when I live practically next door in Montreal.
A number of us, including Kevin Smith, Marianne Macdonald and Kerry Schooley, attended a face-to-face meet-up organized by Rara-Avis founder Bill Denton. It was a pleasure to meet other members like Brian Thornton, Jim Doherty and Jason Starr at the con, too. 

But it was Bill Crider who made the biggest impression on me. Bill has published over 100 books in several genres, while teaching at a couple of Texas colleges and continuing into retirement. His late wife, Judy, was Bill’s first reader, and he always acknowledged her contribution to his work. Far too few male authors make that a practice. Bill and Judy attended many mystery, western, fantasy and SF book conventions together. I found them to be warm, interesting conversationalists.

At other Bouchercons in subsequent years, I crossed paths with Bill and often Judy. I would go to panels where Bill was featured and he was gracious enough to say that he always appreciated seeing familiar faces in the audience. 

Bill collects novels never published in hardcover, mostly mysteries and science fiction. (There are pictures of part of his tremendous collection on the Web.) He generally attended only panels he was on, preferring to browse and schmooze, so he could often be spotted in the booksellers’ room.

In Baltimore I ran into him in the book room.
“See anything here you need, Bill?”
“Well, I can’t say that I need any more books, but there’s one over there I’d love – Reform School Girl. It’s a really important paperback original.”
“Why didn’t you snap it up?”
“They’re asking $1,750.”

So there are limits to the madness. Or so I thought at the time. In correspondence Bill later admitted that he wasn’t sure his mania did have a limit.

“I keep looking at copies of Reform School Girl with longing. Who knows when I might break down?” 

I wonder if he ever yielded to that temptation.

Unlike many collectors who never even turn the pages of their cellophane-wrapped prizes, Bill is an avid reader. Not only that, he remembers the details, making him an invaluable source of information on pulps and later publications.

In addition to writing books, Bill has always been ready to offer encouragement to aspiring writers. From talking to him, I knew he would be. He’s kept at least two blogs, one on jogging and the other a “Pop Culture Magazine” in which he posts links to humorous and informative articles on a wide variety of topics. It must be said that he has a weakness for certain subjects, like Bigfoot, alligators and crocodiles, “the Thin Mints melee” and related incidents, and for a while, Paris Hilton. 

Several years ago, when Judy was diagnosed with cancer, Bill shared their journey through treatments and relapses up to her death, frankly and unsentimentally, yet lovingly. It was very touching. When he himself became sick, his posts on the subject were far fewer and less detailed, but even his recent announcement that his days are numbered was characteristically frank and unsentimental.

I would like to say I’ve read everything he’s written, but I don’t think that will ever be possible. Nonetheless, I have enjoyed every word of the dozen or so books and countless blog and Facebook posts, and generous correspondence I have had the privilege of reading. 

I miss Bill’s daily posts now and will miss him for a long time to come. 

Karin Montin

Karin on Dead to Begin With by Bill Crider

More on Bill Crider


Richard Moore said...

Loved your tribute Karin. Anyone wishing to read all the fiction by Bill Crider will find it all but impossible. Bill wrote several novels in western and adventure paperback series under house names--some are known but not all.

Chris Aldrich said...

A wonderful tribute, made even more touching now that Bill has moved on to anotano world...

Karin said...

Thanks, Richard and Chris. He meant so much to us all.