Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Crumley

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 13 Jun 2001

Neil wrote:

"Funny thing, the only novels he has published since _One to Count Cadence_ have been crime novels. Did those *become* the serious literature for him?"

Could be. As a matter of fact, there are already hints of that in Whores.

I dug out Whores and here are a few points from that 1988 interview:

About the Texas novel:

"I need at least two years to write it. That's a 600-800 page novel. I suspect that I'll need to make enough for two years or so where I don't have to teach or do screen work unless I want to. Then maybe I'll finish it." . . .

"Q: Meanwhile you've written detective novels."

"A: Well, with The Last Good Kiss I was getting a lot of attention and I mean I'm getting reviews in the Atlantic, shit like that. And so that' s when I decided that I'd be happy to do detective novels. Somehow that seems more honest than to do serious novels. Gives you something to say in bars besides that you used to work for the phone company.

"And so I had a little of that, and then I decided that oh, Jesus, I can't write another fucking question-and-answer sesion. Never. And then I wrote Dancing Bear under the infuence of dire need. Like it was either write that book or go roughneck. That's why it only took a year and a half.

"But at the same time, I feel those detective books have done a lot for me. They taught me a lot about writing and I think I can say that without having to sound too arrogant.

"Q: Here's the big one: What is the difference between "serious" literature and detective literature in general?"

"Well, okay. Serious fiction is sometimes serious. Detective fiction is sometimes serious, but ofttimes not. Serious fiction on the other hand, sometimes when it's serious it's ludicrous. And detective fiction is never ludicrous when it's trying to be serious."

He talks a bit about his own books.

Then, when asked about mystery writers he reads:

"[T]here's a lot of new guys right now: Michael Z. Lewin, K.C. Constantine, Stephen Greenleaf. I also re-read Chandler a lot, much more so than Hammett. And although I don't do it much anymore, I've probably been through the Ross Macdonald novels half a dozen times, at least."

Anyone who has read Crumley's The Wrong Case knows this is true.

He adds that Constantine is his favorite working detective writer.


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