Interview with Author Bill Crider

ED- The Eerie Digest is proud to present another one of our favorite authors, Bill Crider, to all of our readers. Bill, you have been an author of so many fine novels that it is hard to know where to start. At present we understand that you are chair of the Division of English and Fine Arts at Alvin Community College in Alvin, Texas. Tell us about your work there.

BC- Thanks for the invitation to do this interview. That information on the dust jackets of my books is hard to get phased out. It’s now out of date. I retired from the college several years ago and am now a gentleman of leisure. Or at least a man of leisure. I went to ACC in 1983 as chair of the Department of English. I taught four classes, and since I was the chair, I could teach pretty much whatever I chose. I preferred American lit and developmental English classes, for some reason. The college had a big prison program, so for several years I taught in different prison units. I liked working with the prisoners, but I got tired of the drive to the prisons, so I stopped teaching there and stayed on campus. After a few years I moved up to become chair of the Division of English and Humanities, taught fewer classes, and attended more meetings. I got tired of the meetings and decided to retire. I don’t miss the meetings at all, but I do miss the students and the classroom interaction.

ED- We have interviewed many great authors in our magazine, and have published requests for student writers to submit their work to us. What is the most important recommendation that you tell all the aspiring writers who you have taught so that we can pass this along to all our student readers?

BC- I taught creative writing for years, but when I moved to Alvin, I gave it up because one of the teachers already there was doing such a great job in the course. Besides, after having taught the class for a while, I wasn’t sure I had any remarkable advice. I told my students that first of all they had to read. Novels, poetry, nonfiction, it didn’t matter. They needed to read. And they needed to write. I was often surprised at the people who wanted to be writers, but they didn’t want to have to do any actual writing. Let’s face it: writers are people who write. There’s just no way around it.

ED- When did you start writing novels and what inspired you to do so?

BC- I’m one of those people who’s always been a writer, at least as defined above. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Poetry, research papers for school courses, book reviews, articles about crime fiction, and so on and on. When I finished my course work in grad school, I decided that I’d try my hand at fiction. I wrote a fantasy novel that’s now lost to posterity (and a good thing, too, I’m sure) that I sent to Lancer Books. Lancer Books folded almost immediately, though maybe there wasn’t a connection. At any rate, I didn’t bother sending it anywhere else.  About that time, a friend suggested that we collaborate on a book for the then-popular Nick Carter series. That one was called “The Coyote Connection,” and we somehow managed to sell it to the editor. After it was published in 1981, I didn’t do anything else for a couple of years. Then I wrote the first Sheriff Dan Rhodes novel, and it sold to Ruth Cavin at Walker Books. Ruth is at St. Martin’s now, and the 18th book in the series, “Murder in the Air” was just published by St. Martin’s this month.

ED- You have written many popular series such as ‘Carl Burns’, ‘Truman Smith’, ‘Stanley Waters’, ‘Professor Sally Goode’, ‘Ted Stevens’, and others this has been quite an accomplishment. What do you attribute your success with these to?

BC- I’ve been lucky enough to find editors who like my work, which is a great thing. The bad news is that while these books have made me a lot of friends, they’ve never “broken out” to an audience big enough to make me a household name. The Truman Smith series, one of my personal favorites, never even got into paperback. I keep thinking that any day now, some publisher is going to decide to make me a star, but so far it hasn’t happened. I don’t mind at all. I’ve had a great career and sold a lot of books.

ED- Another favorite series is the ‘Dan Rhodes’ novels. How does these book differ from some of the other series that you have written, and can you tell us something about it?

BC- The Rhodes series was the first one I did. I can still remember receiving the letter of acceptance from Ruth Cavin (this was in the days when writers and editors corresponded with real letters typed on typewriters). After saying that she wanted to buy the book, she added, “You are working on a sequel, aren’t you.” I wasn’t, but I started one the next day. The idea for Rhodes came from my small-town background, as most of my stories do. I don’t write the kind of books that involve the fate of the nation or the world. I like to tell about a writers’ conference I attended where one of the speakers said you couldn’t make a living writing about places where the crime of the week was committed by a restaurant owner who didn’t put a sneeze shield over the salad bar. He was probably right, but that’s exactly the kind of crime I write about. In fact, I wrote down the idea in case I ever wanted to use it. So far, I haven’t, but I still have time.   Sheriff Rhodes is, of course, a duly sworn law-enforcement officer. The others are mostly amateurs. Ted Stephens and Truman Smith are private-eyes, and I love writing those stories. Carl Burns and Sally Goode are English teachers. Stanley Waters is a retired weatherman. They’re a lot different from the sheriff.

ED- You have written a number of novels under the name ‘Jack MacLane’. What is the underlying theme of these books?

BC – I’m glad you asked, because the Jack MacLane books have just returned to print in e-book form, available from fine on-line sellers in formats for just about any kind of e-reader you happen to own. These are horror novels, and they’re very different from my other work. Plenty of violence and a bit of gore. They’re also really good books. Try one. “Goodnight Moom,” for example. Or one of the others. Great stuff, even if I do say so myself, but definitely not for the squeamish.

ED- In 2003 you had a book titled ‘We’ll Always Have Murder’ with Humphrey Bogart on it’s cover. Can you describe this book and the connection to this great actor for us?

BC- Again, I’m glad you asked. A publisher called iBooks had the rights to use the Bogart image, and my agent called and asked if I’d like to write a crime novel with Bogart as the main character. I’ve been a fan for over 50 years. How could I resist? It’s one of my favorites among my books, set in post-WWII Hollywood. Bogart tags along with a private-eye to solve a murder. I already had a sequel plotted, but the publisher of iBooks died in a car crash. That effectively put an end to the publishing house and any sequels.

ED- You also published books with Clyde Wilson and Willard Scott as well. Describe the teamwork that was needed to accomplish this feat.

BC- In the case of the books with Willard Scott, I was provided with a long list of guidelines that indicated the things that had to be included in the books. The character of Stanley Waters is a lot like Willard Scott, so I relied on him for a lot of details about Waters’ life and background. The plots and the writing were mine. With Clyde Wilson, it worked differently. Clyde provided me with a lengthy outline of the first book (“Houston Homicide”). I straightened out the plot, added some material, and wrote the final manuscript. Clyde also provided the outline for the second book, but this one wasn’t as lengthy. The title, the characters, and the setting were all Clyde’s, but the writing is all mine.

ED- Tell our readers about your book, “The Coyote Connection,” your book in the Nick Carter ‘Kill Master’ series.

BC- I wrote that one in collaboration with a man named Jack Davis, as I mentioned above. He was working at Allied Van Lines, and he’d noticed that a lot of the employees were reading books in the Nick Carter series. He told me he thought we could write one. He described the series as “James Bond for truck drivers.” It sounded like fun, so we gave it a try. Much to my surprise, it was accepted, and the editor really liked it. Unfortunately, that editor left the publishing house, and that ended our Nick Carter career.

ED- You have also written stories for anthologies about some of the favorite characters that our readers enjoy, such as ‘Celebrity Vampires’, ‘Werewolves’, and many more. You, as a writer, are the envy of many writing hopefuls. Please tell us about these books and your work on them.

BC- I don’t know about being the envy of anyone, but I’ll admit that I’ve been very lucky in my writing career. I’ve been invited to write stories for a number of anthologies, like the ones about vampires and werewolves, and those were great fun to do. I like having an assigned topic. It saves me the work of thinking of something to write about!

ED- Your Book collections are numerous as well. Can you tell us about those?

BC- My collecting is pretty much limited to paperback originals, mainly from the ‘50s and ‘60s and mostly crime novels. I do have a pretty nice SF collection, too, and that one’s a combination of reprints and originals. I like the covers on nearly all of them better than the covers on most current books, and I scour eBay daily to find new things to add to the collections. I’ve outgrown the house and now have to rent storage space for a lot of my books. I look for the producers of one of those hoarders reality shows to turn up one day with a camera, but so far it hasn’t happened. Thank goodness.

ED- Bill, where can our readers find your books ? I am sure that they will soon be scouring the bookstores for them.

BC- Well, my books are easily available on-line at Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and at all the other fine independent booksellers at the brick and mortar stores. Murder by the Book in Houston can even get signed copies for you. My newly issued e-book reprints, including the Jack MacLane novels and a couple of westerns, are at Amazon, the Sony store, the Crossroad Press bookstore, and so on. Check ‘em out.

ED- Bill it has been an honor, and a pleasure, to be able to interview you. I know that our readers will be glued to this interview to learn so much about you, and your work. We want to thank you and wish you much success in all that you do, and hope that you keep in touch with all of us at The Eerie Digest.