James Crumley died about ten days ago. This has been an annus horribilis as far as great writers go. Here's the obit from the LA Times.
Crumley was the best "crime" writer ever...one of the finest authors, regardless of genre, America has ever produced. He was a student of another hard-drinking, hard-living scribbler, Richard Yates. If you've never read anything by either of these two men I envy you the thrill of discovering them for the first time.
Once I learned of his passing, I went over to the shelf that houses the eight Crumley novels I own, picked up three or four of them and sat down to re-read them. Felt downright weepy as I read certain passages that are like the purest, clearest music in the world. Here's a few lines from the first page of The Last Good Kiss, down on his luck gumshoe C.W. Sughrue entering a bar and eying up its denizens:
As I sat down, they glanced at me with the narrow eyes of country people, looking me over carefully as if I was an abandoned wreck they planned to cannibalize for spare parts. I nodded blithely to let them know that I might be a wreck but I hadn't been totaled yet. They returned my silent greeting with blank eyes and thoughtful nods that seemed to suggest that accidents could be arranged.
Wow. Raymond Chandler eat your fucking heart out. Don't get me wrong, I love Ray, he's number two on the hit parade, but Crumley was in a league all by himself.
My friend Gord also sent me a link where friends and admirers reminisce about Crumley. It will give you some idea of the loss the literary world has suffered.
We'll not see the likes of James Crumley again.
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