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.