A Chat with 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
I sent Bill an email asking if he’d be willing
to do an interview for Myshelf and here’s his
Myshelf. What made you want to start
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
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
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.