Friday, September 19, 2008

Another loss: James Crumley

Through the grapevine I've learned that James Crumley has died. He'd been ill for years, so this is no great surprise, but it saddens nevertheless; Crumley was a fixture of the Montana writers' scene, and it's hard to imagine the region without him.

Like everybody who was ever a writer in Missoula, or hung out at Charlie B's on Higgins, I knew Jim a little. If you ever had a spare beer or cigarette, he was your friend, and if you had neither, he was your friend anyway. He was endearingly crotchety, full of stories about all the crazy people he'd ever met, and generous to young writers who'd read his stuff and wanted to talk to him; you could always find him on the margin of any party or picnic, smoking and drinking and waiting for somebody to wander over and start up a conversation.

He was a terrific writer, too; he produced a Vietnam novel, and seven mysteries, each starring one of his two detectives, Milo Milodragovich and C. W. Sughrue (and one starring both). It was his Montana mysteries, along with Richard Hugo's sole crack at the genre, that made me want to try my own small-town crime story.

A lot of people will be mourning him this week, because he knew everybody. Feel free to throw in a Crumley memory or two--I'm talkin' to you, Ed.

7 comments:

ed said...

Ah crap. Crumley!

ed said...

the last bit from Dancing Bear (1983):

I still have my beard, though, and haven't had a drink since the night Simmons died. When I see myself in a barroom mirror, I look like a ghost of my former self, and I see myself a lot as I tend bar at Arnie's across the street from the Deuce, work the day shift and swamp out the bar at night. Sometimes old Abner comes in for a short beer, but not too often because Yvonne gives him hell about it...I am not tempted. I live close to the grain, avoid even the appearance of evil, forgive all things, live alone in the tiny swamper's cubicle beside the alley, keep my nose clean.

I have learned some things. Modern life is warfare without end: take no prisoners, leave no wounded, eat the dead--that's environmentally sound.

Fifty-two draws closer every day, and with it, my father's ton of money. So I wait, survive the winters, and when the money comes, let the final dance begin.

ed said...

We're putting together an evening of appreciation and remembering at the Richard Hugo House at 7pm October 15. If anyone who reads this is in Seattle, please come. It will be pretty informal, just some reading aloud from his work, some talking, perhaps some light libations.

rmellis said...

It sounds great, Ed, wish we could be there...

jrlennon said...

Agreed.

zachary-cole said...

I wish I'd known of this author. What little I've read of his after seeing this blog is certainly interesting.

Mr. Micawber said...

I posted my own remembrance of Jim at my blog: www.micawberspunch.blogspot.com check it out. But, yeah, losing Jim was losing another one of the good guys, no matter how hard he tried not to be.