Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Between the pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

A Chat with Bill Crider

Bill Crider Some of you may be familiar with the works of Bill Crider. As a mystery fan I first encountered Bill’s work in his Sheriff Dan Rhodes series. I immediately liked his light, straightforward and quick-paced style. I found it quite refreshing and very easy to read. I’ve reviewed a couple of his titles, A Knife in the Back, and Of all Sad Words, right here on Myshelf.

Bill is a very prolific writer with around fifty books published as well as scores of short stories. You can find out more about them at his website.

I sent Bill an email asking if he’d be willing to do an interview for Myshelf and here’s his reply.

Myshelf. What made you want to start writing?

All the great books I read as a kid. And by "great books" I mean anything I could get my hands on. I read the Bomba series, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins. I read Twain and Booth Tarkington. Later on I read science fiction by the metric ton. I loved reading, and I loved books. I wanted to be a part of all that, and I started writing poetry and stories. It was a long time before I got serious about it and actually started selling, though.

Myshelf. Which was the particular author who inspired you? Someone you emulate?

What finally got me going was my encounter with writers like Hammett, Chandler, Ross Macdonald, John D. MacDonald, Mickey Spillane, Harry Whittingon, and other crime writers. I wanted to be those guys. Again, it took a while to get serious about it. I'm a slow starter, but I've made up for it by being productive. While I've never come close to equaling the writers I most admire, I've had a lot of fun. I couldn't emulate those guys even if I tried. Whenever I write something, it always winds up sounding like me.

Myshelf. Do any of the situations that you write about parallel true life experience?

I taught at a four-year university and a community college for many years. I've written series with both those settings, and some of the situations are pretty close to reality. In fact, all the examples from student papers that I used are from papers my own students wrote. As for the other series, I've used situations from news stories, but not from my own life. Interestingly enough, more than once I've seen news stories that parallel things I've made up from whole cloth. And that's happened years after the books were published. Life imitates "art."

Myshelf. What future plans do you have?

I plan to keep writing as long as I can sell books, I suppose. In today's market, I might find myself retired at any minute. If that happens, it's okay. I've had a great run and a lot of fun.

Myshelf. Are you a structured writer, using outlines, or do you just start writing?

I'm a total seat-of-the-pants type of guy. There's more than you ever wanted to know about that topic on Timothy Hallinan's blog. Tim's running a whole series of answers to that question, and my response is here.

Myshelf. How many different series do you write?

Well, now it's just two, and the second one's ended with two books because I was writing it with a friend who's passed away. I'm still writing about Sheriff Dan Rhodes, and in the past I've written books about a college professor named Carl Burns, a community college English department chair named Sally Good, and a private-eye named Truman Smith. Those were all a lot of fun to write, but the sales weren't big enough to keep them going. I think they were great books, no matter what.

Myshelf. This is your space to say anything you’d like.

There's not much more to say. I still love reading as much as I did when I was eight years old. Give me a book, and I'm happy. It doesn't even have to be a good book. When I was a kid, I read widely and uncritically. I haven't really changed that much. Okay, that's not entirely true. There are some books even I can't read, but it takes a lot to disappoint me. And writing is still fun most of the time. Nothing beats the feeling when things are going right and the words are flowing the way you want them to. I write mainly to amuse myself, but I hope people enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoy writing them.

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