from the Los Angeles Times

James Crumley dies at 68; author of gritty but poetic crime novels

James Crumley

Bill Wittliff / Texas State University-San Marcos

James Crumley, seen in 1989, wrote seven poetic but hard-boiled detective tales, including “The Last Good Kiss.” “There was something about the beauty, the elegance of the prose that I think is the most important thing about Crumley,” says Otto Penzler, founder of Mysterious Press.


By Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 20, 2008


James Crumley, a revered and influential crime novelist whose hard-boiled detective tales set in Montana and other Western locales were praised for both their grittiness and the lyrical quality of their prose, has died. He was 68.

Crumley died of complications from kidney and pulmonary diseases Wednesday at a hospital in Missoula, Mont., said his wife, writer and artist Martha Elizabeth.

A self-described “bastard child of Raymond Chandler,” Crumley wrote seven crime novels featuring two detectives who were set not in the mean streets of L.A. but in what he called “my twisted highways in the mountain West.”

Crumley’s private eyes, C.W. Sughrue and Milo Milodragovitch, were, as Dallas Morning News writer Jerome Weeks wrote in 2001, “sullen, violent men whose drug use and carnal antics would stagger a rhino.”

To tell his two detectives apart, Crumley suggested remembering that “Milo’s first impulse is to help you; Sughrue’s is to shoot you in the foot.”

The opening line to his 1978 Sughrue novel “The Last Good Kiss,” which many consider his masterpiece, is considered classic — and fans would often recite it to him at book signings:

“When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.”

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