Sunday, September 21, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

James Crumley

Hardboiled. A term often applied to mystery novels, and they didn't get much harder boiled than Crumley's work.

Almost thirty years ago, somebody told me I should read The Last Good Kiss, that it was worth it for the first line alone.

I did -- and it was:

"When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonora, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."

From the Wikipedia article: "His (Crumley's) novels The Last Good Kiss, The Mexican Tree Duck and The Right Madness feature the character C.W. Sughrue, an ex-army officer turned private investigator. The Wrong Case, Dancing Bear and The Final Country feature a p.i. named Milo Milodragovitch. In the novel Bordersnakes, Crumley brought both characters together. Crumley said of his two private detectives: "Milo's first impulse is to help you; Sughrue's is to shoot you in the foot."

Crumley has been described as "a patron saint of the post-Vietnam private eye novel," and as a cross between Raymond Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson. Although his books were not bestsellers, he had a cult following, and his work is said to have inspired a generation of crime writers, including Michael Connelly, George Pelecanos and Dennis Lehane."

He called himself the bastard son of Chandler, and you can see that easily enough.

Crumley's detectives were hard-drinking, hard-doping, hard-screwing kinda guys, and from dedications and editorial asides in his books, you kinda get the idea their creator wasn't exactly a teetotaler himself. He was married five times, and spent ten years working in La-La-Land doing a bunch of unproduced scripting and script-doctoring to earn money for all that alimony.

We come and we go.

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