James Crumley Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Compared with the output of many mystery-fiction authors, James Crumley’s publications were limited. After the publication of his first novel, One to Count Cadence, in 1969, he produced only two or three novels per decade. However, Crumley has had an immense impact on the genre of detective fiction.

Perhaps partly because Crumley’s first novel was a mainstream book about the military, his detective novels have been afforded the critical respect and reception more typically associated with literary fiction. During the 1980’s Random House printed his books in the Vintage Contemporaries line, dedicated to showcasing rising literary talents like Richard Ford, who later won a Pulitzer Prize, and short-story writer Raymond Carver. As a result, Crumley developed a serious readership beyond the ranks of mystery aficionados. Furthermore, his mystery novels managed to both update and subvert the genre parameters within which they were operating. His detectives abused drugs and were respectful to women but also libidinous; the increased level of violence, and occasionally the absurdity of its abundance, in his books reflected a new take on the genre.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Anderson, Patrick. The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks, and Cannibals Captured Popular Fiction. New York: Random House, 2007. Contains a discussion of Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss that notes the writer’s lyrical prose and outlaw attitude.

Crumley, James. “Noir by Northwest: Fictional Madness, Greed and Violence Are Alive and Kicking—Mysteriously, so Is Literary Tough Guy James Crumley.” Interview by Ed Murrieta. The News Tribune, August 21, 2005, p. E01. Examines Crumley’s history and how his personal life interacts with his literary creations.

Kaczmarek, Lynn. “James Crumley: Poet of the Night.” Mystery News (August/September, 2001). An interview and commentary about Crumley as a writer poised between detective fiction and literary fiction.

Newlin, Keith. “C. W. Sughrue’s Whiskey Visions.” Modern Fiction Studies (Autumn, 1983): 545-555. A discussion of alcohol and drug abuse in Crumley’s early fiction.

Scaggs, John. “Sex, Drugs, and Divided Identities: The Detective Fiction of James Crumley.” European Journal of American Culture 22, no. 3 (2003): 205-214. Considers both the influence of Western novels and films on Crumley’s works as well as how Crumley’s detectives go through a process of identification with their suspects.

Silet, Charles L. P. “James Crumley.” In Talking Murder: Interviews with Twenty Mystery Writers. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. Contains an interview with Crumley by Silet, who has published interviews in Mystery Scene and Armchair Detective.