"Tell us about
your new book?"
"Well, I have two new ones, Murder Is An Art (St. Martin's)
and Outrage at Blanco (Dell). The first is a mystery, the other
is a western. The mystery is set in a community college near
the Texas Gulf Coast, a college that in no way resembles
the one where I teach. I'd written other academic mysteries,
but never one set in a community college. So I figured, "Why
As for the western, I've always liked the theme
of revenge and how it affects people, so I decided to give it
a slightly different twist in Outrage at Blanco.
The book has been successful enough for Dell to ask for a sequel,
which will be titled Texas Vigilante. It's been picked up by
the Doubleday Book Club, so there will be a hardback edition."
"In The Art of the Murder, who's getting
and who is making an art of it?"
"An art instructor at the community college is conked
with a bust of winged victory. His murder seems to be connected
either to a painting of a goat (suspected by one prominent member
of the community of having Satanist implications) or to the teacher's
unfortunate propensity to fondle female students. It's not
exactly artful, but it is murder."
"The western and the mystery, which came first?
And why and what do you think are the reasons for the drop off
in the popularity of the western in literature and film?"
"The western came first; I've always
thought that the private-eye novel was an offshoot of the western.
I suppose Poe developed the first real mystery stories, but Cooper
was writing westerns before that. I have no
explanation for the decline of the western's popularity. When
I was a kid, you could watch a western on TV at just about any
hour of the evening and go to one at the theater every week.
Now it's hard to find one anywhere.
Maybe the myth of the west doesn't resonate with people the way
it used to."
"Did you at anytime find yourself working on Murder
Is An Art and Outrage at Blanco at the same time? How do you
switch gears from a murder mystery to a western?"
"I usually work on one book at a time. I wrote Outrage
at Blanco several years ago and sold it to Doubleday's Double-D
Western line. When that line folded before Outrage was published,
I got the book back. Westerns went into a decline, but my agent
sold the book to Dell, which is now part of a conglomerate that
includes Doubleday. I like to think that the same company paid
me twice for the book.
As for switching gears, most of my western novels
have a mystery-related plot, so they're really not too different
from my mysteries. They're just set in an earlier time period. Maybe I should have tried to sell
them as "historical mysteries."
"Looking back on your writing career, would there be
anything you would change or do differently and if so what and
"I can't really think of a thing I'd change. I've had
a great time, sold a lot of books (and a lot of short stories),
and worked with some wonderful editors. I've never "broken
out" like some writers manage to do, but I've been able
to write all kinds of books and write them the way I wanted to.
I've done mysteries, westerns, horror novels, and even books
for kids. I've won a couple of awards. I've survived for quite
a while in a tough market. I certainly wouldn't change any of
"What do you think makes good writing and why?"
"I'm not sure what makes good writing. In fact, I'd
find giving a definition of "good writing" almost impossible.
But one element of it is style. Robert B. Parker was once asked
why he thought people enjoyed his books, and he said something
like this: "I think they like the sound of the words on the page." In Parker's
case, at least for me, that's certainly true, and I think writing
style is what first attracted me to writers like Raymond Chandler,
Dashiell Hammett, and Ross Macdonald. A good stylist will keep
my attention even better than a clever plotter."
"How many books would you say you have had published?"
"My guess would be somewhere around 40. But who's counting?
Most of my recent books have been either adult mysteries or kids' books. I have
a Western (Outrage at Blanco) coming out from Dell Books this
"Have you ever won any literary awards or been nominated?
"I won the Anthony Award for "Best First Mystery
Novel" in 1986 (for Too Late to Die). I've been nominated
for the Anthony Award for "Best Mystery Short Story"
(for "How I Found a Cat, Lost True Love, and Broke the Bank
at Monte Carlo"). I was also nominated for a Shamus award by the Private Eye Writers
of America for "Best First Private-Eye Novel" for When
Old Men Die. And this year I won the Golden Duck Award for "Best
Juvenile Science Fiction Novel" (for Mike Gonzo and the
"Can you remember when you made the decision that you
were going to be a writer/novelist and what was it that made
you want to write?
"I wanted to be a writer because I loved reading so
much. I wanted to write something would make somebody, somewhere,
feel about books the way I did. I read all kinds of books when
I was young, including all the series books like Nancy Drew,
The Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys. I read tons of science fiction and mysteries,
and just about everything else. Always in the back of my mind
was the idea that someday I'd write a book, too. Finally, I did
"As a writer, I spend lots of mornings during the week
drinking coffee and listening to Willard Scott give the weather
on the Today Show. You co-authored a novel with Willard Scott
called Murder Under Blue Skies. Can you tell us how this came
about and what your role was here in this novel?"
"The book deal with Willard Scott was put together by a third party who was familiar with
my work and with the kind of book that Scott had in mind. I write
a lot about small towns, and my mysteries (at least most of them)
aren't exceptionally violent. That's the combination that they
were looking for."
"How did you and Willard actually go through the writing
process and is there another Willard Scott and Bill Crider novel
in the works?"
"I was presented with Scott's idea for the book, the
characters, the setting, the whole basic situation. The main
character was supposed to be a retired weatherman who ran a small
bed and breakfast inn in a small Virginia town, owned cats, dated
a woman on the local police force, and
so on. Also, as you can tell if you know anything about Scott's
background, the main character's life is based to a great extent
on Scott's. There are differences, of course, but it's mostly
Scott. So he provided all that information. I did most of the
writing, and then Scott got the manuscript for his comments and
changes. We agreed on nearly everything, so it was a very amicable
process. We had so much fun doing it that there will indeed be
a second book, "Murder in the Mist," this January.
It will come out at the same time as the paperback edition of
the first book. If we sell enough copies, maybe we'll do more."
"What was the last book you read?"
"Shakespeare's Champion" by Charlaine Harris, and
"The Lost Get-Back Boogie" by James Lee Burke. I usually
read a couple of books at the same time, going from one to the
"What has been the greatest challenge for you in your
"Finding the time to write. I have a Real Job during
the day, so I have to do all my writing in the evenings and on
"Do you have a favorite Bill Crider book and what would
it be and why?"
"That's a tough one. I write three different series,
one featuring Dan Rhodes, the sheriff of a small Texas County,
and I have a sneaking affection for "Murder Most Fowl"
in that series. I like my college English teacher, Carl Burns, too, and "One
Dead Dean" has a special place in my heart. I always wanted
to kill a dean. As for the Truman Smith books, I like "Gator
Kill," since it allowed me to write about my alligator obsession.
Stand alone? I like "The Texas Capitol Murders" because
it let me say some things about politics that I've always wanted
to say, and I like "Blood Marks" because it's sold
more than any of my other books."
"Any novels (just Bill Crider as the author) planned
in the future and what and will that be?"
"I have a hard-boiled western coming from Dell in December,
"Outrage at Blanco." I'm working on
a sequel to that novel right now. And in April, St. Martin's
will publish "Murder Is an Art," a non-series mystery
set at a community college. I've recently signed a contract for
two more Dan Rhodes books, and I'm really looking forward to
"It is an honor to have you associated with The Page
ONE Literature Newsletter for Writers. In closing What advice
would you give to aspiring authors hoping to get published for
the first time?"
"It's been fun doing the interview. Thanks for giving
me the opportunity. As for my advice to aspiring writers, I'd
say, read a lot.
Meet and talk to other writers. Love what you're doing. Always
be professional. And if you really believe in yourself, then
never give up."