“I never saw any of them again—except the cops. No way has yet been invented to say goodbye to them.” –Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye Not a bad way to end a novel; I want to say that the reason I write is because of Chandler. I want to say this is the book and the moment that I saw my dark future as a crime writer. And it is in a way. I love Chandler. Love. I was 16 and discovered him. But I was raised by a teacher and an artist. I couldn’t admit to loving Chandler. I had to speak of Dylan Thomas (who I do love, enough that I named my first son after him) and Arthur Kopit, Steinbeck, Hemmingway. Amazing writers. Read them. Loved them. Rain pounding down, fire crackling, I’d chose Chandler. So I learned to love crime writing in my teen years, well that and Hunter S. Thompson. It wasn’t until I discovered James Crumley and his cross pollination of Gonzo and Crime that I found a voice that seared my wires. Dancing Bear is the first book of his I read, I was sold. “Modern life is warfare without end. Take no prisoners, leave no wounded, eat the dead - that’s environmentally sound.” Now THAT is how you end a book. It is a book that deals with guns drugs and the destruction of his beloved Montana. Milo Dragovitch is an unlikely hero, he is a drunk and a layabout. He is wasting time waiting for his fiftieth birthday when he will inherit a small fortune, until then he is doing as little as possible. He fights his alcoholism by drinking only peppermint schnapps, a drink he hates. It isn’t long before he is drinking so much of it that he complains of his tongue tasting like a candy cane. Years ago at Bouchercon I had the honor of meeting Crumley. He was a bear of a man, in Hawaiian shirt. He walked with a drunkard’s roll. His publisher and editor introduced us, “Jim you should read this guy’s manuscript, it’s weird like you.” Crumley never read my book. Might of

hated it. Later he was onstage being interviewed by Denis Lehane. He complained at length about how authors were ruining the craft by writing too fast, this need for a book a year was ridiculous. A good book takes time, was his stance. If I’d of had balls and wasn’t starstruck I might have pointed out James Lee Burke and a slew of other great writers who were putting out a book a year and not letting quality suffer. But it took Crumley what it took him. Fact is, I started writing because he wrote too slow. Waiting years between books, I knew if I wanted books like his in the world I needed to write them. Not that I compare myself to him. Hell he is James Fucking Crumley. But I write the books I wish were out there for me to read. Erika and I were in Montana just after Crumley died. We were in Missoula, the town both Crumley and Burke wrote in and about, it was a bit of a literary pilgrimage. At the news of his death I was struck by the loss of all the books he would never write. In his 69 years on this mud ball he wrote 12 books. Amazing books. Too damn few books. So next time you find yourself in a bar, alone with nothing to do, crack open Dancing Bear and tip a glass to a master.

“It's done. This may not be my final country. I can still taste the bear in the back of my throat, bitter with the blood of the innocent, and somewhere in my old heart I can still remember the taste of love. Perhaps this is just a resting place. A warm place to drink cold beer. But wherever my final country is, my ashes will go back to Montana when I die. Maybe I've stopped looking for love. Maybe not. Maybe I will go to Paris. Who knows? But I'll sure as hell never go back to Texas again.” James Crumley The Final Country

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