James Crumley, R.I.P.

James Crumley, one of the most influential crime writers upon the current generation of working writers, has died at the age of 68. The Missoulian has more:

Missoula author James Crumley, 68, died Wednesday afternoon at St. Patrick Hospital after many years of health complications.

he died, Crumley was surrounded by family and friends, including his
wife, Martha Elizabeth, and Missoula author and county emergency
services director Bob Reid.

“We were friends in the fullest
sense,” Reid said. “I admired him for many things. He always kind of
had this off-kilter way of looking at things – different than what you
would imagine. He had a real hard-nosed exterior, yet at the same time
he was patient and understanding of many different things and many
different people.”

More from Anthony Neil Smith, who is spot on in saying “it’s a very sad goddamned day indeed.” And from Duane Swierczynski: “Crumley’s life was by no means soft, but I pray he’s gone to that

pleasant eternity. And I hope he knows how much he’s respected and

admired by those left behind.” Also see tributes by Luca Conti, Patrick Shawn Bagley, Mary Reagan, David Montgomery, Jean-Marc Lahererre, J. Kingston Pierce, Jeffrey Ford, James W. Hall, Sean Doolittle, Dave White, Keir Graff, Abigail Nussbaum and Robert Ferrigno.

To read about Crumley during more robust times, please check out:

UPDATE: The AP picks up the news and the blogger “forward hope” has a hell of a tribute:

Though many of the numerous writers in the now-famous Montana

Mafia–centered in Missoula– were quite accessible, Jim was, well,

accessible AND easy. Easy in that you didn’t have to be anything other

than what you were around him. Easy in that it didn’t take much to make

his body shake with a laugh. Easy in that he was always glad to see

you. And it was genuine.

Half the time I didn’t understand what

came out of his mouth, covered as it was by a full mustache and beard,

and thickened with a couple scotches or Coors (in a can, original only,

never light) and with me being half-deaf, I was at a double

disadvantage. But no matter…hanging with Crum was always a joy. We’d

watch football and yell at the screen. We’d munch on goodies brought by

friends during the UnSuperbowl, or whatever Martha called the gathering

of women–mostly–who weren’t as into the football as those who sat

glued to the TV all day on Superbowl Sunday. I loved football, but I

could pay attention to other things too. 🙂 Some of us played with the

cats; some watched the sunset from the deck. Mostly we jsut felt lucky

to be among such wonderful, interesting people.

I know Jim

changed a great deal in the last years of his life…his body began to

break down, and in the end, after two trips to San Francisco to see

specialists, he was told to go home and enjoy the rest of his life.

Some say he was unrecognizable at the end. In many ways, I am glad I

didn’t see him. I like to remember him in his leather vest, holding

court at Charlie’s, sitting on a stool underneath black and white

photographs of all the people who’d warmed that seat before him. He

came up to me after one of my readings once, at the Old Post, and

recited back to me a line from one of my poems: “or don the cheap

slicker of slective memory.” He liked that line. I was honored, and

humbled. I mean, he remembered that line. That kind of generosity of spirit was the James Crumley I knew.

UPDATE TWO: Obits by way of the Los Angeles Times, the NYT, KPAX and the Washington Post, and the Missoulian has an extended tribute featuring reminisces from Crumley’s friends. Just about everyone who knew him, the paper writes, has a favorite Crumley story. “I’ve got about 2,000 of them,” says William Kittredge. “But none of them belong in the Missoulian.”