Bill Crider, above with his wife Judy, was a prolific and popular writer of Westerns and crime books: he died of cancer on 12th February 2018 at the age of 76. He had announced on his blog in December that he was going into a hospice, and if you look at the comments on his post, you can see an outpouring of sadness and respect for a much-loved man. As well as producing his many books, he took a most active and friendly part in the book world: he was a great reviewer, attended conventions, and generally was a delight. He was funny and charming, and this all came over in his blog and other non-fiction writings. He was fascinated by books and all kinds of writing, and always generous in sharing his ideas and favourites. He will be much missed.
I haven’t read many of his books - they are not so easily available in the UK, and I knew him more through his blogging - but this one, as recommended by Curt Evans on his Passing Tramp blog, seemed a good way to mark his passing.
A Romantic Way To Die By Bill Criderpublished 2002
Sitting on the dresser was a stack of paperback book covers. Rhodes flipped through them and saw that they were all for historical romance novels. Every single one featured Terry Don on the cover. There was always a woman, too, but the focus was on Terry Don.
On some of the covers his hair was a bit longer than others, and it wasn’t always exactly the same color. Sometimes the color of his eyes was changed, too, but one very cover a large expanse of his chest was exposed. Sometimes he was wearing a torn shirt, sometimes the shirt was simply unbuttoned, and sometimes he wasn’t wearing a shirt at all. None of the poses had much appeal for Rhodes, but he was sure they must have appealed to women. Otherwise Terry Don wouldn’t have had so much work.
commentary: As Curt at Passing Tramp said, it’s amazing the things you can learn by reading crime fiction. The setting for this book is a convention for romance writers and would-be romance writers, and although there is a certain amount of satire and exaggeration, as well as criminal goings-on and, obviously, murder - it has the feel of being authentic, he seems to know his stuff. A writers’ convention is an excellent milieu: there are underserved bestsellers, there are people who can’t get published, there are tough old dames who work as agents or in publishing, there is fighting and bitching, and long-ago quarrels leftover from High School. And there is the handsome male model above – the man all the women writers want on the covers of their books, preferably without his shirt.
This all takes place just outside a small town in Texas. Sheriff Dan Rhodes is a long-standing series sleuth (this was the 11th of around 25) and so a well-established character. He is easy-going and likeable, and has an entourage of friends, staff and a wife: they all tease and joke with each other. The whole thing is very entertaining and funny and (dare one say it?) verging on the cozy, though I mean that in the nicest possible way. There is nothing horrible happening here, nothing gruesome or over-violent. The book is full of action, the Sheriff chases round, climbs around the building, and gets hit on the head. (coincidentally, a paint can – a rare item in crime books - features here, as it does in the new Mick Herron, on the blog recently). There are plenty of entertaining characters around: someone comments
‘What’s with the names of people around here anyway? Lorene, Vernell, Henrietta.’
‘Don’t forget Belinda,’ Rhodes said.
Belinda laughed. ‘You’ve got me there. I guess not everyone can be named Jennifer or Tracy.’It was obvious that Bill Crider was a very nice, good-hearted man, and his book is full of nice, good-hearted people too (along with some villainy...).
And, I enjoyed tremendously finding romance cover pics to illustrate this. They are an astonishing genre.