Crider, Bill 1941–

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Crider, Bill 1941–

(Nick Carter, Allen Billy Crider, Jack MacLane)

PERSONAL:

Born July 28, 1941, in Mexia, TX; son of Billy (a freight agent) and Frances 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—Alvin, TX. Agent—Kim Lionetti, Bookends, 136 Long Hill Rd., Gillette, NJ 07933. E-mail—[email protected]; [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:

"DAN RHODES" MYSTERY SERIES

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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, Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2001.

Red, White, and Blue Murder, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2003.

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

Murder among the OWLS, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2007.

Of All Sad Words, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martins' Minotaur (New York, NY), 2008.

"CARL BURNS" MYSTERY SERIES

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

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

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

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

"TRUMAN SMITH" MYSTERY SERIES

Dead on the Island, Walker (New York, NY), 1991.

Gator Kill, Walker (New York, NY), 1992.

When Old Men Die, Walker (New York, NY), 1994.

The Prairie Chicken Kill, Walker (New York, NY), 1996.

Murder Takes a Break, Walker (New York, NY), 1997.

MYSTERY NOVELS

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

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

"MIKE GONZO" YOUNG ADULT NOVELS

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.

"STANLEY WATERS" MYSTERY SERIES; WITH WILLARD SCOTT

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

Murder in the Mist, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.

"PROFESSOR SALLY GOOD" MYSTERY SERIES

Murder Is an Art, Thomas Dunne (New York, NY), 1999.

A Knife in the Back, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2002.

A Bond with Death, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2004.

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.

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

WESTERNS

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

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

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

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

Outrage at Blanco, 1998.

Texas Vigilante, 1999.

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.

(With Clyde Wilson) Houston Homicide, Five Star (Detroit, MI), 2007.

Also author of blog, Bill Crider's Popular Culture Magazine. 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 anthologies and magazines.

SIDELIGHTS:

Bill Crider is a prolific writer in several genres, and he has created characters for numerous series. Dead on the Island is the first of the "Truman 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 contributor 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 contributor called The 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 contributor called the character of Tru Smith "Rockfordlike."

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 contributor 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 cock-fighting." Melton went on to write: "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 contributor of that 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 contributor wrote that "some good-old-boy shenanigans spice up the straightforward investigation." "The humor, the suspense, and the small-town ambience all ring true," wrote 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 contributor commented that 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 contributor 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 from 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 Lawton, who also provide comic commentary. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that A Ghost of a Chance offers two murders, theft, drugs, and a shoot-out, "but folksy Dan Rhodes handles it all with pleasing and entertaining aplomb."

The series continues with A Romantic Way to Die, 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 Donna Seaman, writing in Booklist, who felt that "Crider affectionately satirizes the mania for writing and fame." A contributor to Publishers Weekly commented: "Crider fans will welcome this as eagerly as past entries."

In Red, White, and Blue Murder, 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 contributor 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."

With Blood Marks, Crider tells the story of a serial killer, his next intended victim, and the detective determined to stop the murders, and he uses an alternating point of view—first person for the killer and third person for the rest—to put the reader inside the murderer's head while showing the progress being made in attempting to stop him. The killer, whose name we never learn, has developed ways to properly prepare to kill someone, and his methods seem successful given the fact that he is responsible for the deaths of nine women in the Houston area over a period of two years, which is the length of time it took for the local law enforcement to begin addressing the murders as the work of a single killer. Homicide Detective Howland is assigned the case, and he in turn must work with psychologist Dan Roman in an attempt to get any possible insight into the killer's mind. The only common thread to the victims turns out to be something the killer refers to as "blood marks," which refer to tattoos, birthmarks, or scars on their skin. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that "a cartoonish but harrowing flashback to the killer's abused youth leads to a violent if unsurprising climax."

Crider chooses 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 in the latter 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 contributor remarked that the plot "is laced with pleasant, dry humor," but also wrote that … A Dangerous Thing "fails to gather itself into a memorable whole." A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented 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. 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 contributor noted that the couple's "sleuthings provide modest fun, while the novel's ending offers an unexpected tinge of sadness." Writing in Booklist, 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 and A Bond with Death. 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 contributor 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 to 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 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, Waters's old high school flame, and Waters set out on the trail of the murderer. A Publishers Weekly contributor 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, 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 the Writers Write Web site called Murder in the Mist "another keeper from a winning team."

In addition to his mysteries, Crider has written westerns and 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.

While writing a wide range of mystery and other novels, Crider has made steady contributions to his "Dan Rhodes" mystery series. In A Mammoth Murder, the Texas sheriff finds himself looking for the murderer of a person found in the Blacklin County forest. The forest is also supposedly the residence of a Bigfoot, and a local man named Bud Turley claims to have found a tooth from the monster. Turley hopes to cash in on his discovery, which turns out to be a tooth from a prehistoric mammoth, but soon finds himself a suspect in the murder case when the dead man turns out to be one of his friends. "Fans and newcomers alike will enjoy this playful romp with a Texas drawl," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. In a review in Booklist, Wes Lukowsky called A Mammoth Murder "another satisfying puzzler populated by colorful Texas characters and driven by the author's distinctive, dry wit."

Murder among the OWLS finds Rhodes investigating the bludgeoning death of a kindly old lady named Helen Harris, who is found battered on her kitchen floor. Accompanied by Helen's cat, Sam, which has attached itself to Rhodes, the sheriff begins to investigate and is soon led to suspect that perhaps the members of the Older Women's Literary Society (OWLS) had something to do with the murder. "Laconic, wryly amusing Sheriff Dan is in top form in his best excursion in a long time," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Once again writing in Booklist, Lukowsky noted that the mystery is "marked with dry humor, meticulous plotting, and insights into the mysterious rites of small-town life."

Cowritten with retired private investigator Clyde Wilson, Crider's Houston Homicide recounts the adventures of veteran cop Ted Stephens, a detective sergeant who goes by Steve and who just knows he is about to have a very bad day. The feeling is aided in part by a pair of dead women, both named Dorothy Parker, who prove to be the mother and wife of Ralph Parker, an attorney who, along with the dead women, has been gunned down for no apparent reason. By itself the case is not a problem, but Steve has been teamed with homicide division detective sergeant Wetsel, and the two men find their personalities clash badly as they attempt to work the investigation. When Steve's friend, private detective Clive Watson, joins in as well, the tension between the investigators positively ignites. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews found the book disappointing, remarking that "colorless prose and a limp plot … undercut authenticity." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt similarly let down, stating that "this disappointing procedural captures the tedium of real police work too well for its own good."

In Of All Sad Words, Dan Rhodes finds himself a quasi celebrity when Blood Fever is published, a novel featur- ing the handsome sheriff Sage Barton, a fictional character for whom Rhodes himself served as the inspiration and model for the two women who wrote the book. When the authors come to town for a book signing, Rhodes manages to set aside his embarrassment and embrace his role, and he agrees to attend the event and even sign some autographs. But crime refuses to go on hold simply because the local sheriff has a personal engagement. Rhodes sets out to investigate the murder of Terry Crawford, who was shot twice and then blown up along with his mobile home. Terry's twin, Larry Crawford, seems less upset by the loss of his brother than Rhodes feels is appropriate and is swiftly added to the list of suspects, which includes several graduates of the local Citizens' Sheriff Academy. The Academy was Rhodes's idea, a way of giving the average citizen a bit more knowledge about the jobs of the local police along with the chance to try their hand at the firing range. While Rhodes thought the classes would help foster respect between civilians and law enforcement, instead they seem to have worked to give them inside knowledge into how to beat the system. Wes Lukowsky, writing for Booklist, observed that "Crider delivers his usual meticulously interwoven plot threads colored by Rhodes' dry humor." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote: "Crider expertly evokes this small Texas town and its eccentric cast of characters."

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 longtime 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 also 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, p. 840; February 1, 1999, Jenny McLarin, review of Murder Is an Art, p. 964; September 15, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of A Romantic Way to Die, p. 202; September 1, 2002, Sue O'Brien, review of A Knife in the Back, p. 62; September 15, 2003, Wes Lukowsky, review of Red, White, and Blue Murder, p. 213; July, 2004, Wes Lukowsky, review of Dead Soldiers, p. 1824; October 15, 2004, Sue O'Brien, review of A Bond with Death, p. 392; May 1, 2006, Wes Lukowsky, review of A Mammoth Murder, p. 24; January 1, 2007, Wes Lukowsky, review of Murder among the OWLS, p. 61; January 1, 2008, Wes Lukowsky, review of Of All Sad Words, p. 49.

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; March 15, 2006, review of A Mammoth Murder, p. 263; December 1, 2006, review of Murder among the OWLS, p. 1198; October 15, 2007, review of Houston Homicide.

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; February 13, 2006, review of A Mammoth Murder, p. 66; November 13, 2006, review of Murder among the OWLS, p. 37; October 1, 2007, review of Houston Homicide, p. 41; December 3, 2007, review of Of All Sad Words, p. 53.

Texas Monthly, January, 2007, Mike Shea, review of Murder among the OWLS, p. 52.

ONLINE

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

Point Blank, http://www.oivas.com/pointblank/ (March 20, 2006), brief author biography.

Writers Write, http://www.writerswrite.com/ (September 17, 2007), review of Murder in the Mist.