A Death in the News

Since David Foster Wallace’s death last week, writers and critics around the world have been examining anew Wallace’s influence on American and international literature — and even going so far as to say that his individual death reflects the death of something greater in literature in general: the end of the novel? or at least the passing of an era?

Wallace’s death and these resulting comments have cast a long shadow, and with all that attention it might be easy to miss somehow the death of another great writer, James Crumley, who has exerted himself a tremendous influence on many of today’s crime writers and who passed away earlier this week. Even I missed it.

Little time here to reflect on that passing, except to point readers to an article in today’s Washington Post which gives a quick look at Crumley’s accomplishments and his influence. The article also quotes the opening line to Crumley’s best-known novel, 1978’s The Last Good Kiss — a line which ranks high on the canon of great openers in all literature, genre or otherwise. It’s worth repeating here:

When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonora, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.

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