Crider, Bill 1941-

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Crider, Bill 1941-

(Nick Carter, Allen Billy Crider, Jack MacLane)

PERSONAL: Born July 28, 1941, in Maxia, TX; son of Billy (a freight agent) and Frances (Brodnax) Crider; married Judy Stutts, June 4, 1965; children: Angela, Allen. Education: University of Texas at Austin, B.A., 1963, Ph.D., 1972; North Texas State University, M.A., 1966.

ADDRESSES: Home—1606 S. Hill, Alvin, TX 77511. Agent—Kim Lionetti, Bookends, 136 Long Hill Rd., Gillette, NJ 07933. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Writer and educator. High school English teacher in Corsicana, TX, 1963–65; Howard Payne University, Brownwood, TX, associate professor, 1971–74, professor of English, 1974–83, chair of department, 1977–83; Alvin Community College, Alvin, TX, professor of English and chair of department, 1983–2002.

MEMBER: Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, American Crime Writers League, Western Writers of America.

AWARDS, HONORS: Anthony Award for best first novel, for Too Late to Die; Golden Duck Award for best juvenile science-fiction novel of 1998, for Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror; Anthony Award (with wife, Judy Stutts), 2002, for short story, "Chocolate Moose."

WRITINGS:

MYSTERY NOVELS

Too Late to Die, Walker (New York, NY), 1986.

Shotgun Saturday Night, Walker (New York, NY), 1987.

Cursed to Death, Walker (New York, NY), 1988.

One Dead Dean, Walker (New York, NY), 1988.

Death on the Move, Walker (New York, NY), 1989.

Dying Voices, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1989.

Evil at the Root, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1990.

Dead on the Island ("Tru Smith" series), Walker (New York, NY), 1991.

Blood Marks, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1991.

The Texas Capitol Murders, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1992.

Gator Kill ("Tru Smith" series), Walker (New York, NY), 1992.

Booked for a Hanging, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1992.

A Dangerous Thing, Walker (New York, NY), 1994.

Murder Most Fowl, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1994.

When Old Men Die ("Tru Smith" series), Walker (New York, NY), 1994.

Winning Can Be Murder, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1996.

The Prairie Chicken Kill ("Tru Smith" series), Walker (New York, NY), 1996.

Murder Takes a Break ("Tru Smith" series) Walker (New York, NY), 1997.

Death by Accident, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Willard Scott) Murder under Blue Skies, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Willard Scott) Murder in the Mist: A Stanley Waters Mystery, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.

Murder Is an Art: A Professor Sally Good Mystery, Thomas Dunne (New York, NY), 1999.

A Ghost of a Chance, Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2000.

The Nighttime Is the Right Time: A Collection of Stories, Five Star (Unity, ME), 2001.

A Romantic Way to Die: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery, Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2001.

A Knife in the Back: A Professor Sally Good Mystery, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Red, White, and Blue Murder: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Dead Soldiers, Five Star (Unity, ME), 2004.

A Bond with Death: A Professor Sally Good Mystery, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2004.

A Mammoth Murder: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2006.

HORROR NOVELS; UNDER PSEUDONYM JACK MACLANE

Keepers of the Beast, Zebra Books (New York, NY), 1988.

Goodnight Moom, Zebra Books (New York, NY), 1989.

Blood Dreams, Zebra Books (New York, NY), 1989.

Rest in Peace, Zebra Books (New York, NY), 1990.

Just before Dark, Zebra Books (New York, NY), 1990.

YOUNG-ADULT NOVELS

A Vampire Named Fred, Temple Books (New York, NY), 1990.

Mike Gonzo and the Sewer Monster, Minstrel (New York, NY), 1996.

Mike Gonzo and the Almost Invisible Man, Minstrel (New York, NY), 1996.

Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror, Minstrel (New York, NY), 1997.

Muttketeer!, Big Red Chair Books (Allen, TX), 1997.

OTHER

(With Jack N. Davis; under house pseudonym Nick Carter) The Coyote Connection (spy novel), Charter Books, 1981.

(Editor) Mass Market American Publishing, G.K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1982.

Ryan Rides Back (western), M. Evans (New York, NY), 1988.

Galveston Gunman (western), M. Evans (New York, NY), 1988.

A Time for Hanging (western), M. Evans (New York, NY), 1989.

Medicine Show (western), M. Evans (New York, NY), 1990.

Outrage at Blanco, 1998.

Texas Vigilante, 1999.

Contributor to Dictionary of Literary Biography, Twentieth-Century Western Writers, Dimensions of Detective Fiction, Popular Press, 1976, and Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers, St. Martin's, 1980. Contributing editor for Paperback Quarterly. Founder and publisher of Macavity (mystery fanzine). Contributor of short stories to numerous anthologies and magazines.

SIDELIGHTS: Bill Crider is a prolific writer in several genres, and in each he has created characters for specific series. Dead on the Island is the first of the Truman (Tru) Smith books. The part-time private investigator lives on Galveston Island, Texas, where he spends his time fishing and reading Faulkner. "Crider has created another well-drawn protagonist," noted reviewer Sybil Steinberg in Publishers Weekly, "this time a moody, introspective PI in the finest tradition." The second book in the series is Gator Kill, followed by When Old Men Die. Booklist reviewer Emily Melton noted that Crider has been compared to author Robert Parker, creator of Spenser. "His writing," commented Melton, "features some of the same subtle humor, crisp dialogue, and intriguing plots." In reviewing The Prairie Chicken Kill, Melton added that Crider "writes one mean murder mystery." A Publishers Weekly contributor, reviewing the same title, wrote that Crider "fashions a tight plot filled with laconic charm and idiosyncratic characters." A Kirkus Reviews critic called Prairie Chicken Kill "lazily understated, with a surprisingly energetic windup." Melton wrote that Tru Smith's fifth appearance in Murder Takes a Break offers "a clever and thought-provoking plot." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the character of Tru Smith "Rockford-like."

Another popular mystery series from Crider features Dan Rhodes, a sheriff in Blacklin County, Texas. In reviewing Evil at the Root, Steinberg reported that Crider offers "telling details and clear-eyed observations of human nature." A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted Crider's "down-home humor, rural shenanigans and salt-of-the-earth characters" in Booked for a Hanging. Melton described the plot of Murder Most Fowl as being set in a Texas county where the main activities are "emu rustling, beer drinking, and cockfighting…. Crider's latest … is a breath of fresh air." "Crider's humor is the warm kind, and his cast amiably eccentric," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer of that same title.

Crider's Winning Can Be Murder revolves around the death of a high school football coach. Drugs, gambling, and adultery figure in the plot, and a Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that "some good-old-boy shenanigans spice up the straightforward investigation." "The humor, the suspense, and the small-town ambience all ring true," added Wes Lukowsky in Booklist.

In Death by Accident, Dan Rhodes is faced with the murders of three men who died in separate accidents. A Publishers Weekly reviewer felt there are problems with the plotting, but noted that "even short of top form, Crider spreads enough garishly entertaining local color to distract readers from his haphazard plot construction." Booklist reviewer David Pitt called Rhodes "appealing" and the supporting cast "as vivid as any real-life next-door neighbors."

In A Ghost of a Chance Sheriff Rhodes's jail is haunted, and someone is stealing graveyard art in the cemetery of Clearview, in Blacklin County. As in other books in the series, friends and neighbors are there to help Rhodes solve the murders that are being committed. In this case his elderly helpers are Hack and Law-ton, who also provide comic commentary. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that A Ghost of a Chance offers two murders, theft, drugs, and a shootout, "but folksy Dan Rhodes handles it all with pleasing and entertaining aplomb."

The series continues with A Romantic Way to Die: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery, in which Rhodes investigates a murder at a romance writers convention held at the local conference center. "Crider gets his tongue way into his cheek for this lively, funny look at sex, lies, and really good pecs," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Similar praise came from Booklist critic Donna Seaman, who felt that "Crider affectionately satirizes the mania for writing and fame." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly concluded: "Crider fans will welcome this as eagerly as past entries."

In Red, White, and Blue Murder: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery, Rhodes has to deal with corruption charges leveled against him by a local eager reporter. Though he manages to clear himself, Rhodes subsequently takes a closer look at the reporter's other targets for corruption investigations when one of the sources for the original story dies mysteriously in a fire. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found that "Crider's easy prose fits the setting to a tee," and manages to capture "the smalltown schemes, quirks and characters to true and amusing life." Writing in Booklist, Wes Lukowsky called this twelfth entry in the series "another winner from genre veteran Crider."

Crider chose a different setting for his series featuring Carl Burns, an English professor in a small Texas college. The first book is One Dead Dean, followed by Dying Voices and … A Dangerous Thing. The cast of characters includes a feminist dean and a new member of the faculty, Dr. Eric Holt. When Professor Tom Henderson falls to his death from a window, the wives of Burns's fellow instructors, Fox and Tomlin, are accused by his widow of fooling around with her now-dead husband. Burns aids the police chief in the investigation and is helped by an attractive librarian. A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that the plot "is laced with pleasant, dry humor," but felt … A Dangerous Thing "fails to gather itself into a memorable whole." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that Crider "has some witty, well-aimed barbs for the pompous edicts of the politically correct."

Burns returns to action in the 2004 title Dead Soldiers, in which Burns is asked to find some missing toy lead soldiers. As the request comes from the dean of the college, Burns figures he should comply, but before he can begin his investigation, a member of the faculty is found dead of a gunshot wound, and one of the missing toy soldiers has been left at the scene of the crime. Thereafter, Burns must team up with the local police chief and also his main competition for the affections of the local librarian in this "unerringly enjoyable" contribution to the series, according to Booklist contributor Lukowsky.

Another Crider series with an academic setting begins with Murder Is an Art: A Professor Sally Good Mystery. Dr. Sally Good heads the fine arts and English departments of Hughes Community College near Houston. She becomes involved in the investigation when a male professor who had painted a nude of one of his students is found murdered. The student's husband is the chief suspect, but then the student is also found dead. A missing valuable painting figures in the plot, and Sally teams up with colleague Jack Neville, a Buddy Holly fan, in solving the murders. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that the couple's "sleuthings provide modest fun, while the novel's ending offers an unexpected tinge of sadness." Booklist reviewer Jenny McLarin credited Crider with a "wry style and keen descriptive powers."

Crider continues with the books featuring Sally Good in A Knife in the Back: A Professor Sally Good Mystery and A Bond with Death: A Professor Sally Good Mystery. With A Knife in the Back, Sally comes to the aid of Jack Neville, who is being questioned by police in the case of the murder of a college trustee. Sally soon finds that said trustee had been seeing another member of the English department, Mae Wilkins, who in turn had been two-timing him with another member of the faculty. These complicated love lives of academics finally stir up the real killer in this "pleasant read for cozy fans," as Booklist contributor Sue O'Brien described the book. In A Bond with Death, Sally must prove her own innocence when her old college nemesis, Harold Curtin, is found dead. Sally has reasons for wanting the miserable man out of the way, for he was trying to get her fired. A Publishers Weekly reviewer complained that the real murderer turns out to be a character introduced late to the plot, thus spoiling the effect for those who like to try and match wits with the writer, but that otherwise A Bond with Death is an "amusing, well-written and inventive tale." Booklist contributor O'Brien praised the "interesting bits of history, a likable and sensible heroine, and details of community college life" that all add up to make this same tale work.

Crider has coauthored two mystery novels with Willard Scott, who is best known as a weatherman on television's Today show. The books feature Stanley Waters, a retired weatherman who has opened a bed-and-breakfast in rural Higgins, Virginia. In Murder under Blue Skies, Waters is celebrating the inn's grand opening when a guest drops dead. A bowl of poisoned salsa appears to be the cause. Local police chief Marilyn Tunney is an old high school flame of Waters', and he sets out on the trail of the murderer with her. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that Crider's hand "is evident in the hometown atmosphere that surrounds Stanley and makes this slow-paced jaunt read like a story told from a front-porch rocker." Emily Melton wrote in Booklist that the story "is a delightful 'American cozy' that will delight Scott's many fans."

The second book with Scott, Murder in the Mist: A Stanley Waters Mystery, finds Stanley participating in a reenactment of the fictional Battle of Higgins when a bullet grazes him and then kills businessman Rance Wofford. "Neither the story nor the suspects have much depth," complained a contributor to Publishers Weekly, "but Stanley comes off as an intriguing mixture of innocence and guile." Lukowsky wrote in Booklist that Crider "captures the subtle jealousies, affections, and motives only small towns can offer." A reviewer for Writers Write online called Murder in the Mist "another keeper from a winning team."

In addition to his westerns and mysteries, Crider has written several juvenile books, including a series featuring Mike Gonzo. In Mike Gonzo and the Sewer Monster, the main character has encounters with invisible men, space aliens, and sewer monsters. Mike pursues a pair of empty shoes in Mike Gonzo and the Almost Invisible Man, and in Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror, he and his friends board an alien spaceship that then takes off. This last book won the Golden Duck Award for best juvenile science-fiction novel of 1998.

Crider once told CA: "I've been reading mystery novels almost since the time I learned to read, beginning with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and moving on to practically everything else in the field. When I wrote my doctoral dissertation, it seemed only natural for me to write on private-eye fiction, and even before I received my degree I became a genuine mystery fan, writing articles and reviews for most of the fanzines in the field. I've published my own mystery fanzine, Macavity, for an amateur press association for nearly twenty years without missing a mailing. In 1980, when a friend suggested that we collaborate on a Nick Carter novel, it seemed like a logical progression, and to my amazement the novel was published. After that I moved on to writing several mystery series under my own name and then branched out into western and horror fiction. Currently I'm doing a few humorous adventure novels for young readers. I love reading, and I love writing. My hope is that my stories will give someone a small portion of the pleasure that I've derived from reading the work of others over the years."

In 2002, Crider left his long-time position as Chair of the Division of English and Fine Arts at Alvin Community College in Texas. As he noted on his Web site, the move enables him to "become either a full-time writer or a part-time bum. Take your pick."

Crider told CA: "Like a lot of other crime writers I was first stirred to write by people like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. But the writers who really caught my interest, and who are probably more responsible than any others for my own career, are the ones who wrote paperback original fiction during the 1950s, people like Harry Whittington, Jim Thompson, John D. MacDonald, Charles Williams, Day Keene, and Vin Packer to name just a few. I devoured their books at an amazing rate over a period of a lot of years and sought them out wherever I could find them. As a result, I work in a room lined with shelves filled (and over-filled) with thousands of paperback books. I still get a great deal of pleasure from looking at the colorful covers and from reading, or re-reading the books."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 1, 1994, Emily Melton, review of Murder Most Fowl, p. 26; November 1, 1994, Emily Melton, review of When Old Men Die, p. 480; March 15, 1996, Wes Lukowsky, review of Winning Can Be Murder, p. 1242; August, 1996, Emily Melton, review of The Prairie Chicken Kill, p. 1885; October 15, 1997, Emily Melton, review of Murder Takes a Break, p. 391; January 1, 1998, Emily Melton, review of Murder under Blue Skies, p. 748; February 15, 1998, David Pitt, review of Death by Accident, p. 987; January 1, 1999, Wes Lukowsky, review of Murder in the Mist: A Stanley Waters Mystery, p. 840; February 1, 1999, Jenny McLarin, review of Murder Is an Art: A Professor Sally Good Mystery, p. 964; September 15, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of A Romantic Way to Die: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery, p. 202; September 1, 2002, Sue O'Brien, review of A Knife in the Back: A Professor Sally Good Mystery, p. 62; September 15, 2003, Wes Lukowsky, review of Red, White, and Blue Murder: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery, p. 213; July, 2004, Wes Lukowsky, review of Dead Soldiers, p. 1824; October 15, 2004, Sue O'Brien, review of A Bond with Death: A Professor Sally Good Mystery, p. 392.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1992, review of Gator Kill; May 15, 1994, review of … A Dangerous Thing; October 1, 1994, review of When Old Men Die; February 15, 1996, review of Winning Can Be Murder; July 15, 1996, review of The Prairie Chicken Kill; September 1, 2001, review of A Romantic Way to Die, p. 1246; August 15, 2002, review of A Knife in the Back, p. 1175.

Library Journal, April 1, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of Murder Is an Art, p. 133.

Publishers Weekly, May 4, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Evil at the Root, p. 57; April 12, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of Dead on the Island, p. 46; April 26, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of Blood Marks, p. 49; December 6, 1991, review of The Texas Capitol Murders, p. 59; May 4, 1992, review of Gator Kill, p. 45; September 7, 1992, review of Booked for a Hanging, p. 82; June 6, 1994, review of … A Dangerous Thing, p. 59; August 8, 1994, review of Murder Most Fowl, p. 392; October 24, 1994, review of When Old Men Die, p. 55; March 18, 1996, review of Winning Can Be Murder, p. 61; June 24, 1996, review of The Prairie Chicken Kill, p. 48; August 25, 1997, review of Murder Takes a Break, p. 49; November 3, 1997, review of Murder under Blue Skies, p. 68; January 26, 1998, review of Death by Accident, p. 72; December 14, 1998, review of Murder in the Mist, p. 60; February 15, 1999, review of Murder Is an Art, p. 89; June 5, 2000, review of A Ghost of a Chance, p. 75; October 8, 2001, review of A Romantic Way to Die, p. 48; September 15, 2003, review of Red, White, and Blue Murder, p. 47; November 1, 2004, review of A Bond with Death, p. 47.

ONLINE

Bill Crider Home Page, http://www.billcrider.com (March 20, 2006).

Bill Crider's Popular Culture Magazine, http://billcrider.blogspot.com/ (March 20, 2006).

PointBlank Web site, http://www.oivas.com/pointblank/ (March 20, 2006), brief biography of Bill Crider.

Writers Write, http://www.writerswrite.com/ (February, 1999), review of Murder in the Mist.