MysteryPeople Q&A with Bill Crider

  • Interviewed by MysteryPeople Scott

Bill Crider is the epitome of the Texas journeyman writer. He has written in almost every genre and subgenre, his mysteries about Clearview sheriff Dan Rhodes being his best known. In his latest, Between The Living And The Dead, Dan Rhodes confronts murder, meth, and a possible ghost. Bill took a few questions from us about the Dan Rhodes novels and his career.

Bill Crider joins us Monday, September 28th, at 7 PM here at BookPeople for a Lone Star Crime panel. He’ll be speaking and signing his latest novel alongside Reavis Z. Wortham and Ben Rehder. You can find copies of Between The Living And The Dead on our shelves and via bookpeople.com


MysteryPeople Scott: What prompted you to use ghost hunters as a major part of the mystery?

Bill Crider: I’ve always wanted to write a haunted-house story, but I never came up with the right start for it. Then one day in the Walmart parking lot here in Alvin, Texas, I saw a ghost-hunters’ van, and I knew I had my hook. I had a character who’d be a perfect ghost hunter, so I gave him the job, threw in a murder, and had my haunted-house book.

MPS: You depict Clearview as dealing with many issues common to small towns – Clearview may not be dying, but it is going through some serious change. What do you think is the biggest change small town America has gone through in this century?

BC: I think the big change in Clearview started in the last century, when the Walmart came to down town and caused the collapse of the central business district. That happened in a lot of small towns. The old downtowns were pretty much deserted, and the businesses all migrated to surround the Walmart. Also in the last century, a lot of small towns in Texas developed big city problems, what with the easy manufacture of meth. That drug’s been a plague in some small towns over the years. And even earlier, the old agricultural base disappeared. There used to be cotton fields all over Texas. Every small town had a cotton gin, and sometimes more than one. It’s hard to find one now.

MPS: Clearveiw has a lot of colorful citizens, was there one who was particularly fun to write for in this book?

BC: Seepy Benton’s the most colorful character, and he’s always fun to write about. He started out in another series that the publisher didn’t pick up, but he was so much fun that I had to import him to Blacklin County.

MPS: What do you think is Dan Rhodes’ biggest virtue as a hero?

BC: I don’t think of Rhodes as a hero, and he doesn’t think of himself that way, either. In fact, he goes out of his way to keep people from thinking of him that way. He’s just a guy doing a job. Sometimes he has to do things that regular citizens don’t have to do, but it’s all part of the job to him.

MPS: One can tell from your blog, Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine, that you take in a lot of of different media. Who would you cite as your biggest influences?

BC: I’ve been a reader since I learned to read, so the writers who influenced me are no doubt legion. I started going to movies even before I could read, so I’ve been influenced by many of them. I’m so old that I grew up listening to the radio, and I listened to everything: crime shows, comedy shows, soap operas, kid shows, variety shows. The influence of radio probably runs deep. And comic books. I read thousands of those when I was growing up. I loved ’em all, from the funny-animal comics to the superhero comics and even the ones that combined the two. I may be the only person who remembers Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. Oddly enough, TV is probably the least influential medium on me. We didn’t have TV until I was in junior high, and by that time I was too committed to reading to watch as much TV as many people did at the time I grew up.

MPS: It seems you’ve written every kind of book. Is there a genre or sub-genre you’d like to tackle that you haven’t?

BC: When I was young, I wanted to be a science-fiction writer. Then I took physics in high school, and I figured out I’d never know enough science to write science-fiction. I’ve written a few borderline science-fiction books for kids, but nothing for adults. If I had the ability, that’s what I’d do. As you say, I’ve done just about everything else. I even wrote a mainstream novel, long ago. It was never published. If I had a copy, I’d probably publish it myself now that the technology is available.


Bill Crider joins us Monday, September 28th, at 7 PM here at BookPeople for a Lone Star Crime panel. He’ll be speaking and signing his latest novel alongside Reavis Z. Wortham and Ben Rehder. You can find copies of Between The Living And The Dead on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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