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.

Sergio Angelini, SHOTGUN SATURDAY NIGHT
Yvette Banek, TOO LATE TO DIE 
Paul Bishop
Elgin Bleecker, A DANGEROUS THING
Ben Boulden, TOP OF THE WORLD 
Fleur Bradley
Capn Bob
Max Allan Collins,
David Cranmer
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards. Bill 
Barry Ergang, BLACKLIN COUNTY FILES
Curt Evans, EVERYTHING'S MORE MYSTERIOUS IN TEXAS
Lee Goldberg
Ed Gorman, SURVIVORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN; BLOOD MARKS
Charles Gramlich, BILL CRIDER DAY
John Grant, WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE MURDER
Lesa Holstine
Richard Horton, TEXAS VIGILANTE
Jerry House, BIG BILL VS. THE REPTILE MEN OF ALVIN 
Randy Johnson, OUTRAGE AT BLANCO 
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
Steve Lewis, MURDER AMONG THE OWLS
Brian Lindenmuth (Spinetinger Magazine) Interview with Bill 
Richard Lupoff
Todd Mason
Richard Moore
Terrie Moran, MURDER OF A BEAUTY SHOP QUEEN; COMPOUND MURDER, 
DEAD TO BEGIN WITH
Karin Montin
Neer, A TIME FOR HANGING 
J.F. Norris, DEAD ON THE ISLAND 
Juri Nummelin, OUTRAGE AT BLANCO
Matt Paust, DEAD TO BEGIN WITH
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
TracyK, EVIL AT THE ROOT 
Dave Zeltserman, PIANO MAN

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ten Years Ago.

My favorite movies of 2007

Some maybe actually 2006 movies. No special order and no real surprises. These were probably on everyone's lists. What were yours?

Painted Veil
Volver
Zodiac
Lives of Others
First Snow
51 Birch Street
Away From Her
Once
Hairspray
3:10 to Yuma
Gone Baby Gone
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
Starting Out in the Evening
Sweeney Todd

And I remember most of these pretty well. FIRST SNOW I will have to look up though. A decent if not outstanding year. The ones that stayed with me most are THE LIVES OF OTHER and ZODIAC.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Forgotten Movies: PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT


George Roy Hill directed this odd little movie from 1962. Jane Fonda plays a nurse and Jim Hutton a vet suffering from PTSD. Their marriage is sudden and they end up at the home of his former Army buddy played by Tony Franciosa. Tony has his own problems because he married for wealth,
The key to it is the screenplay was written by Tennessee Williams and all of the themes that show up in his plays get a a look-see here: the impotent male, the trouble with Daddies, the hysterical players. Franciosa gives the best performance of the lot. Perhaps because he doesn't lay on a Southern accent with a trowel. Jane Fonda complained her makeup made her unrecognizable and it did. Maybe it was all for the best though. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Graduation Present on Better Things


Things That Make Me Happy





It would be very much easier to tell you the things that made me unhappy this week. There were quite a few. But who needs that right?

Sunday, a nice brunch with my book group (where you know who dominated the talk) and a nice dinner with eight good friends (same topic).  How can we not talk about what now dominates our life.

 I am going to leave it at this. I am very grateful that I have you, some of you stopping by for many years now. I am happy you are willing to share your lives with me. The books you read, the music you listen to, the movies and TV shows you like, the family you share your lives with, all of them are now part of my life. Thanks for being a friend.

What about you?

Friday, December 08, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, December 8, 2017

Next Friday will be Bill Crider day on the blog. Please save reviews of work other than Bill's for another time. Remembrances are also welcome. Those without a blog, please send your piece to me and I will post it here.

I can hardly bear to post these reviews without his name on the list. Another friend died from a stroke this week. Bonnie has two major losses. And Kevin has lost his Sandi. Hardly a worse week in memory. And what goes on in Washington just compounds all semblance of a civil society.



 UPRIGHT PIANO PLAYER, David Abbott

Henry Cage is an enigmatic protagonist to say the least. Despite what seem outwardly like a successful life, he is left by his wife, spurned by his son, a stranger to his grandson, forced out of his career, and harassed by a man who knocks into him after a party. Yet none of these things lead him to much self-reflection. He seems unable to give much and is puzzled at the consequent results of his behavior.

This is a book that has been reviewed favorably yet not one of the women in my book group enjoyed it or even thought it a very good novel. These were the reasons they expressed:: they had no more understanding of Henry Cage by the end of the book than at the beginning--oh, yes, he had changed but it was not clear why. There were too many POVs that seemed unnecessary. Sometimes it was hard to sort out whose head we were in. Every character gets moments of reflection. So many in fact that this may have been what kept us from understanding Henry. The book begins with a horrific incident--an incident so horrible that we all dreaded having to go through it again. The author seemed determined to drape every character in tragedy, in fact. 

Having said this, I have thought about this book quite a bit. I wish we had been told more about his childhood, what made him such a inward man, so unreflective and aloof. I know back stories are unpopular nowadays but a character like Henry needs one if we are to have any hope of peering inside his head. What made Henry the man he was?

Sergio Angelini, Ranking the 87th Precinct Books by Ed McBain
Yvette Banek, Three Mystery Series
Les Blatt, SOMEBODY AT THE DOOR, Raymond Postgate
Brian Busby, The Season's Best Books in Review: 1917 
Martin Edwards, THE FILE ON LESTER, Andrew Garve
Curt Evans, LAVENDER HARVEST: IN COLD BLOOD, Armstrong Livingston
Richard Horton, THE AUCTION BLOCK, Rex Beach
Jerry House, TARZAN AND THE MAD MAN, Edgar Rice Burroughs
George Kelley, HARD READING: LEARNING FROM SCIENCE FICTION, Tom Shippey
Margot Kinberg, THE STUDENT BODY, Simon Hyatt
Rob Kitchin, DEATH OF A DOXY, Rex Stout
B.V. Lawson, THE MYNN'S MYSTERY, George Manville Fenn 
Evan Lewis,  RED GARDENIAS, Jonathan Latimer
Steve Lewis, THE GUILTY BYSTANDER, Mike Brett
Todd Mason, MIND FIELDS, Harlan Ellison and Jacek Yerka
Neer, A TIME TO DIE, Hilda Lawrence
J.F. Norris, THIRTY DAYS TO LIVE BY, Anthony Gilbert
Matt Paust, OUR GAME, John LeCarre
James Reasoner, THE EBONY JUJU, Gordon MacCreagh
TomCat, PATTERN OF MURDER, John Russell Fearn
TracyK, LANDED GENTLY, Alan Hunter
Westlake Review, GET REAL, Part 2

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Agatha Christie Night for Selected Shorts


Sorry. The guy is Hugh Dancy (Hannibal). It should turn up on the podcast for Selected Shorts. Or at least I hope so. They each read an Agatha Christie story except Megan who is the host. It was to raise money for Symphony Space.