Friday, October 01, 2004
Thursday, September 30, 2004
I was lucky enough to live in Central Texas, where my radio picked up KLIF during the day. When atmospheric conditions were right, I could get KTSA and KILT, too. For those of you who don't know, those were the three McClendon stations, the property of Gordon McClendon, The Old Scotchman, one of the true pioneers and great innovators of Top 40 radio.
When I got a little older and entered the American Graffiti stage of my life, the car radio was always on. At night in Central Texas, you could pick up John R. (The Old Hoss Man) and Gene Nobles, both on WLAC in Nashville. They advertised Silky Strate and Randy's Record Shop (which I believe was in Gallatin). In New Oleans, there was Jack the Cat on WNOE. We could even get Dick Biondi in WLS in Chicago. When I went to college in Austin, I listened to Ricky Ware on KTSA during the daytime. Those were great days for DJs and for Top 40 radio.
And for me. I must have ridden a million miles with Bob Tyus in his 1940 Chevrolet, Fred Williams in his black '50 Ford, Richard Perkins in his '54 Cevy, Mike Leary in his '53 Ford, Geoff Gore in his '51 Studebaker. Always with the radio on, always with the great music coming through those crummy little speakers.
The Top 40 format might have been rigid, but the song selection was plenty eclectic. Every station played pop, country, rock, doo wop, rhythm and blues. You might hear Johnny Cash one minute and Percy Faith's orchestra the next, followed by Clyde McPhatter.
I know it's just an Old Guy's fantasy that the music was better in those days than it is now, but it's still the music I prefer to listen to. I should try to improve my tastes, but I know I never will.
All this was brought on, by the way, by my reading of The Hits Just Keep on Coming: The Rise of Top 40 Radio by Ben Fong-Torres. Highly recommended if you like that sort of thing, which I do.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Nothing in her Way is about con games, and there are a couple of elaborate ones in the book, along with some minor ones. The way Williams handles these, and the way his plot keeps coming up with one suprise after another, shows you his technical mastery. And even though you might know how the story is going to end, you don't. Not really. Because another thing I've noticed about Williams is that he writes terrific endings. I'm not talking about the climactic events. I'm talking about the final sentences.
A Touch of Death is a noir thriller, one of those where a guy gets mixed up with a dame in a scheme to make some money. It seems simple at first, the way it always does, but then things start to get complicated. The narrator, Lee Scarborough, thinks he's ahead of the game all the way until the end, when he finds out that he didn't even know the rules. A devastating ending, almost as good as the one for River Girl.
If you're not acquainted with Charles Williams' books, you're really missing some great reading.
Monday, September 27, 2004
In honor of the opening of Shaun of the Dead, I'm posting this link to my very own zombie story, which appeared in the excellent webzine revolutionsf (and I'd give 'em a plug even if they hadn't published my story).
Number one, it's about baseball. How many young baseball fans do you know? Don't young people all like some cooler, faster-moving sport?
Number two, it was written by Robert B. Parker, who's even older than I am. (Maybe that's why I like his work.)
Number three, it's set in the 1940's. I don't remember much about the time Jackie Robinson came up to the major leagues, but soon after that I became an avid baseball fan and baseball card collector (check out some of my cards here if you'd like to see them). Parker really nails the time period, especially in the autobiographical chapters interspersed throughout the narrative. In fact, the short chapter on Life magazine is worth the price of admission all by itself. The autobiographical chapters are, for me, the most interesting part of the book, since they make the setting personal for Parker and in a way for me.
Number four, it has plenty of that male bonding stuff that's in all the other Parker books you ever read. And all that stuff about a code, too. This time, the main character is a guy named Burke. I didn't catch the first name; maybe it's Edmund. I mean, that would fit, right? Edmund Burke, Edmund Spenser. That Parker is a real cutie, slipping in those English major jokes the way he does.
So what? you're saying. What about the plot? Well, that's about Burke, who gets a job as Jackie Robinson's bodyguard for Robinson's first year in the major leagues. Burke is what we Old Guys used to call a burned-out case, thanks to WWII (The Big One) and his ex-wife. He's going to find a kind of redemption, though, thanks to Robinson and a woman named Lauren. You know that from the start, probably, so I'm not spoiling anything. How it happens is what you'll have to read the book to find out.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
The Houston Chronicle has a nice spread on Hard Case Crime today. Front page of the Zest magazine, and two pages inside. As a sidebar on another page, there's a little article on me. Here it is.
The man with a taste for the hard-boiledBy LOUIS B. PARKS
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
ALVIN -- Mystery writer and vintage paperback collector Bill Crider has a recurring dream.
"I'm driving in some small town, and there's this little out-of-the-way bookstore. I go in, and there it is, full of these old books."
Carlos Javier Sanchez : ChronicleAlvin resident Bill Crider has written more than fifty books about different detectives.
But anyone who reads noir crime thrillers knows that dreams usually become nightmares in the final chapter.
"The bad part is," Crider says, "I can't read the titles."
Crider's suburban home is like the dream bookstore -- floor-to-ceiling with thousands of vintage paperback books.
"My wife Judy is a saint, believe me," he says.
Crider, 63, has a definite taste for the era of bad blondes, big guns and tough guys.
"I got interested in the writers who wrote (crime) paperback originals, like Jim Thompson, Harry Whittington, Gil Brewer, Charles Williams, Donald Hamilton -- particularly the (Fawcett) Gold Medal books, the Ace Double books. I have all of those."
Since the mid-1980s, the retired English professor has published more than 50 novels (see www.billcrider.com). Many are mysteries -- though not the hard-boiled style he collects -- under his own name, including a dozen about modern Texas sheriff Dan Rhodes. This summer brought Dead Soldiers featuring Carl Burns, an English professor at a small Texas college.
Crider also writes under pen and house names and does Willard Scott's weatherman mysteries, as the TV star freely admits. Crider's wife is his copy reader and occasional collaborator.
But book collecting is his passion. His essay on his first love, paperback originals, is at www.allanguthrie.co.uk/bcpbo.htm.
"There are a lot of reasons I like them," Crider says. "They're short. Most writers in this vein are really good storytellers. They get in, tell the story; it moves fast. They do a good job with the characters in a short space."
Crider used to haunt used bookstores looking for rare paperbacks. Now he buys most over the Internet, especially at eBay.com and abebooks.com.
"It's gotten so easy," he says. "And the books have gotten much more expensive. The Jim Thompson books I got for a dime are worth a couple of hundred bucks now."
Not that he'd ever sell them.