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Sug as in sugar, rue as in rue the fucking day
September 25, 2008 8:14 AM   Subscribe

James Crumley, Crime Novelist, Is Dead at 68

"James Crumley, a critically acclaimed crime novelist whose drug-infused, alcohol-soaked, profanity-laced, breathtakingly violent books swept the hard-boiled detective from the Raymond Chandler era into an amoral, utterly dissolute, apocalyptic post-Vietnam universe, died on Wednesday in Missoula, Mont. He was 68 and lived in Missoula." -from the NYT Obit.

A 2006 interview.
A 1988 interview and a review of The final Country. Reviews, profiles and so on. some dead links. James suggests you read these books. Google books preview of The Mexican Tree Duck. A remembrance by Maxim Jakubowski. Wikipedia.

Some quotes culled from the links:

When I finally caught up with Abraham Traherne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts, in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon. -The Last Good Kiss (his most famous line, it's quoted in all of the links, sorry, it's fantastic.)

It's done. This may not be my final country. I can still taste the bear in the back of my throat, bitter with the blood of the innocent, and somewhere in my old heart I can still remember the taste of love. Perhaps this is just a resting place. A warm place to drink cold beer. But wherever my final country is, my ashes will go back to Montana when I die. Maybe I've stopped looking for love. Maybe not. Maybe I will go to Paris. Who knows? But I'll sure as hell never go back to Texas again.

The Final Country (2001}

Home? Home is my apartment on the east side of Hell-Roaring Creek, three rooms where I have to open the closets and drawers to be sure I'm in the right place. Home? Try a motel bar at eleven o'clock on a Sunday night, my silence shared by a pretty barmaid who thinks I'm a creep and some asshole in a plastic jacket who thinks I'm his buddy. (The Last Good Kiss)

I found myself chasing ghosts across gray mountain passes, then down green valleys riddled with the snows of late spring. I took to sleeping in the same motel beds he had, trying to dream him up, took to getting drunk in the same bars, hoping for a whiskey vision. They came all right, those bleak motel dreams, those whiskey visions, but they were out of my own drifting past. As for Trahearne, I didn't have a clue. Once I even humped the same sad young whore in a trailer-complex out in the Nevada desert. She was a frail, skinny little bit out of Cincinnati, and she had brought her gold-mine out west, thinking perhaps it might assay better, but her shaft had collapsed, her veins petered out, and the tracks on her skin looked like they had been dug with a rusty pick. After I had slaked too many nights of aimless barstool lust amid her bones, I asked her again about Trahearne. She didn't say anything at first, she just lay on her crushed bed-sheets, hitting on a joint.

"You reckon they actually went up there to the moon?" she asked seriously. (The Last Good Kiss)

If you like the hardest of hardboiled crime fiction and somehow you've missed Crumley, you are in for a treat.
posted by Divine_Wino (15 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
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He was great. A lot of great stories exist about him coming to a college campus to do a reading and crazy kids wanting to go out drinking with him after the reading and he drinking said kids under the table &c.
posted by mattbucher at 8:22 AM on September 25, 2008


Are we supposed to figure out who did it before we click on the links?
posted by mhoye at 8:31 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


A link to Navelgazer's Raymond Chandler post, just down the page.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:35 AM on September 25, 2008


Shit. I always read Crumley when I'm feeling nostalgic for Montana and, you know, want some quality macho violence. He's always struck me as evidence that crime fiction is not necessarily indifferently written entertainment but art as well.

Also, nice post.
posted by stet at 9:29 AM on September 25, 2008


Are we supposed to figure out who did it before we click on the links?

"But Dad!" Encyclopedia said suddenly, putting down his fork even before getting to his pie. "That's it! It wasn't the alcohol that did Old Man Crumley in. It was..."

WHAT DID OLD MAN CRUMLEY IN?
TURN TO PAGE 87 FOR THE SOLUTION!
posted by Spatch at 9:31 AM on September 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


Crumley interview by Terri Gross in 1987.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:35 AM on September 25, 2008


Oh man. This sucks.

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posted by dersins at 9:58 AM on September 25, 2008


The man burned an 800 page manuscript. Wow.
posted by mecran01 at 10:20 AM on September 25, 2008


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Damn. I just got into him a year or so ago (via this AskMefi thread) and could only find "The Last Good Kiss," in used bookstores. (Since I have stacks of unread books around I usually don't order used from Amazon as it takes the fun out of scouring used bookstores). I was always surprised that I could never find his stuff in bigger bookstores.

I was also excited to learn he was an influence on Neal Stephenson, and is name checked in the preface to Zodiac.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 10:29 AM on September 25, 2008


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posted by box at 11:24 AM on September 25, 2008


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Thanks.
posted by Dumsnill at 12:20 PM on September 25, 2008


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Damn it, I hate it when I realize I've read everything an author has ever written, and that there will be no more. With Crumley this seems particularly poignant.
posted by ubiquity at 12:42 PM on September 25, 2008


Probably anyone reading this thread knows this — and Crumley makes the attribution clear for both the title and tone of the book — but just in case, The Last Good Kiss owes its title to this wonderful poem by Richard Hugo. Highly recommended.
posted by Haruspex at 12:45 PM on September 25, 2008




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posted by Manhasset at 5:32 PM on September 25, 2008


My favorite author, and one of my favorite people. His small body of work is what happens when hard-boiled PI meets American West mythology meets craft honed in the Iowa Writers Workshop. An utter and total original. I cried when I got the news, and I don't cry.
posted by missouri_lawyer at 9:35 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


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