The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business

January 10th, 2012

Bill Crider is an institution.  He’s written more than fifty published novels, including  multiple mystery series and standalones, collaborated on a series with Willard Scott, won multiple awards, turned out horror and young adult books, and also managed to lead a full, Texas-size life as a college professor, world traveler, and family man.  

Oh, yeah, and he’s got a Ph.D. and taught college all over the Lone Star State for years, most recently as Chair of the Division of English and Fine Arts at Alvin Community College in Alvin, Texas.  And now, like many of us, he’s taking some of his earlier books into the ebook marketplace.  I’ve never actually met Bill, but I’m dying to.

Going through the Truman Smith books for ebook conversion, how did you feel about them? When I reworked my Simeon Grist books, it was very much a mixed bag – liked some stuff, cringed at other stuff. How about you? Do you think your writing has changed since you wrote them, and if so, how?

I had a lot of fun writing the Truman Smith books, and looking back at them after so long was fun. There were a lot of things I didn’t remember having written, and I thought some of them were pretty good. Other things, not so much, but I’m sure I’d make most of the same mistakes again.

That being said, I’m still very fond of the books and the series. I wish they’d found a bigger audience when they were published, and maybe the ebooks will help more people find them. I know my writing must have changed in the more than 20 years since I wrote the books, but if it has, I’m not conscious of it.

Tell us about your series heroes. Who they are, how they’re different (or similar) and the one book you’d recommend we read to get to know each of them.

Well, there are quite a few of them. Let’s keep it simple and stick to the main ones. Truman Smith is a private-eye who lives on Galveston Island, where he grew up. It’s a small city with an interesting past and interesting secrets. Read Dead on the Island. Carl Burns, on the other hand, is about as far from a private-eye as you can get. He’s a college English teacher, who just happens to get involved in investigating crimes. He’d rather be making a list or teaching class. Read Dead Soldiers.

Sally Good, also a college English teacher, is probably tougher than Carl, but she’s also an amateur. Read Murder is an Art. Sheriff Dan Rhodes is a professional, and he’s been the most successful of the bunch, having stuck around through 20 or so books since he came on the scene back in 1986. He deals with small-town crime, gets into too many fights, and still manages to take care of two dogs and a cat. He’s also married, unlike a lot of fictional crime-fighters. Try his most recent adventure, The Wild Hog Murders.

Do you have a favorite book or two among the ones you’ve written? If so, please tell us about it/them, and why it stands out in your mind.

One of my favorites is The Texas Capitol Murders, a standalone that’s long out of print. I liked writing that one because of the setting and because of some of the first-hand research I got to do. I also think I handled the large cast pretty well. I don’t know if that one will ever see the light of day again. Some of my favorites in the series books are in the answer to question 2.

 What’s your daily writing routine, if you have one?

I used to have one. Now I’m lazy and don’t keep up as well as I once did. Still, it’s pretty much the same. I like to write in the evenings, and I like to set myself a goal – if I write a certain number of pages, which varies with deadlines and such, I’m done for the day. For years I wrote every evening, and I mean every evening – Christmas, birthdays, I didn’t take any time off. I stopped doing that a while back. As I said, I’m lazy.

Please tell us about one or two writers you admire, and what you like about them – they don’t have to be crime writers.

Crime writer (among many other things) Harry Whittington, the pro’s pro. Wrote anything and everything, and did it all well. A master of suspense and plotting. Non-crime writer: Charles Portis, who wrote True Grit but who also wrote several other wonderful books, each one of them hilarious, each one of them entirely different from the others.

Personal friend writer: Joe R. Lansdale, whom I’ve known for well over 30 years. He believed in his talent so much from the very beginning that he never gave up or considered quitting when the sales were few and the money was scant. He stuck to writing what he wanted to write, and sure enough, the audience found him. Besides being a fine writer, he’s a shrewd businessman, a tireless worker, and a great guy.

As a writer who’s also a reader, can you recommend three books you love but we might not have read, and tell us what they’re about and why we should read them?

 Okay, read Norwood by Charles Portis. It’s funny, it’s insightful, and the writing sings. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester is a stylistic tour de force, and one of the best science-fiction crime novels ever. Leaving Cheyenne is one of Larry McMurtry’s best books, but nobody seems to remember it now. I’m amazed that someone as young as he was when he wrote it could have done such a wonderfully elegiac novel.

I love Bill’s taste in books — Lansdale, McMurtry, and Portis are among my heroes, and I’m getting my hands on Harry Whittington as soon as I finish this.  It’s been a privilege to have Bill on the blog, and I hope everyone will take a look at the new ebooks — or any of the books he picked as his best.

11 Responses to “The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business”

  1. Jeffrey Marks Says:

    I’ve been a big fan of Bill’s for years. Great interview.

  2. Ed Lynskey Says:

    I enjoyed reading your interview with Bill, Tim. Thanks to both of you. Bill’s Sheriff Dan Rhodes in The Wild Hog Murders is a fun, great read. I never learned more about wild hogs.

  3. Suzanna Says:

    Hi, Tim and Bill

    Thanks for the interview. I’m really curious about your books since some of them seem to be set in Texas. I was born in Texas, have lots of family there and love to read books set in places I know. Will share this interview with my Texan family members. Hope that many of them will have the same curiosity about your work that I do and read your books.

    I have a question that popped up as I was reading this interview. I noticed that, like yourself, two of your characters, Carl Burns and Sally Good, are also English College professors. Can you please talk a little bit about whether or not these two are based on some of your experiences as a college professor, and if so, how was it for you to write about something so close to your own personal experience? Thanks, again!

  4. EverettK Says:

    I haven’t yet read any of Bill’s works, but I’ll have to now. Thanks to both of you for the great interview! (And book recommendations, of course, are always welcome…)

  5. Cap'n Bob Says:

    Bill’s output is probably double what you said. He’s a talented. affable guy and deserves his success.

  6. Bill Crider Says:

    Thanks, folks. Appreciate the kind words.

    Suzanna, as I always say, any resemblance to actual persons, places, or things is entirely coincidental. Having said that, I’ll add that it would be impossible to write about an academic setting without letting a little bit of personal experience slip in. Any student papers quoted in the books are real, for example. I was an English teacher like Carl and Sally and a department chair like Sally. I had great fun putting a couple of my experiences into fiction. But mostly I made it all up.

  7. Shirley Wetzel Says:

    Tim, my old eyes thought you’d said Bill was IN an institution – but I knew that couldn’t be right 🙂 Besides being a prolific and talented writer, Bill is a gentleman, kind and generous, a fine human being. I started out as a fan, and through the years we have become friends. I just wish I could write like him. I’m working on it, Bill!

  8. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Boy — if you build it, they will come. Bill’s been turning out one great book after another, and it’s great to see people show up to say so.

    It’s been a pleasure for me to host him, too.

  9. Julie Evelsizer Says:

    I haven’t read Bill, but now I’m going to have to. Thanks for the recommendation. Besides, anybody who’s a friend of Joe R. Lansdale has got to be interesting!

  10. Julie Evelsizer Says:

    No sooner said than done: “Wild Hogs” and “Island” are downloaded to my Kindle.

  11. Checked Out Bill Crider’s and Michael Haskins’ Crime Novels Yet? | Bruce DeSilva's Rogue Island Says:

    […] novelist Timothy Hallinan has a fine interview with Crider that you can find here. Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

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