Crumley, James, 1939-2008

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Crime novelist and screenwriter James Crumley was born on October 12, 1939 and spent most of his childhood in South Texas. After earning his MFA in 1966, he went on to teach English, publish a series of detective novels and short stories. After leaving his last teaching job in 1984, Crumley has worked full-time as a writer and has made his home base in Missoula, Montana.

From the description of James Crumley Papers, 1965-1990. (Texas State University-San Marcos). WorldCat record id: 48972321

Novelist James Crumley was born in Three Rivers, Texas, on October 12, 1939 and spent most of his childhood in south Texas. He maintained a straight-A average in high school while also playing football. After graduation he attended the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta on a Navy ROTC scholarship, but soon left to enlist in the U.S. Army, where he served from 1958 to 1961. Crumley then returned to Texas and enrolled at Texas A and I (now Texas A and M University-Kingsville), where he had received a football scholarship. Crumley completed his BA in History in 1964, and was accepted into the University of Iowa’s prestigious creative writing program, where he earned a MFA in 1966. Immediately after graduating he joined the English faculty the University of Montana at Missoula. His masters thesis was eventually published as the novel, One Count to Cadence, in 1969, a popular and critically acclaimed look at the Vietnam War. After his novel was published, Crumley left Montana to hold a series of visiting professorships: the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (1969-70), Colorado State University (1971-74), Reed College in Portland, Oregon (1976-1977), Carnegie-Mellon University (1979-1980) and the University of Texas at El Paso (1981-1984.)

During a two-year stretch as a freelance writer (1974-1976) Crumley published the first in a series of crime novels for which he would become known. The Wrong Case (1975) featured a detective named Milo Milodragovitch, who would also appear in later novels. “I always introduce my work by explaining that I am a bastard child of Raymond Chandler – without his books, my books would be completely different. We cover some of the same ground, his dark streets in LA, my twisted highways in the mountain west. But because of the events surrounding the Vietnam War, my detectives are not as comfortable with traditional morality as Philip Marlowe seems to be,” ( Contemporary Authors, 2000).

In 1978 The Last Good Kiss (1978) was published, which introduced Crumley’s other detective protagonist, C.W. Sughrue. His third crime novel, Dancing Bear (Milodragovitch series), was published in 1983. After leaving his last teaching job in 1984, Crumley has worked full-time as a writer. He’s made his home base in Missoula, Montana since the mid-1980s. He has worked on film screenplays, which remain unproduced, and has continued to write and publish fiction. The Muddy Fork and Other Things : Short Fiction and Nonfiction was published in 1991, featuring many of Crumley’s short stories. The detective series continued with The Mexican Tree Duck (Sughrue series) in 1993, and Bordersnakes (1996), which brought together Milodragovitch and Sughrue for the first time.

According to Robert E. Burkholder in the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook (1984), Crumley’s crime novels stand “the genre on its head by creating an antiheroic protagonist plagued by the weakness and vice of the corrupt world in which he lives and works and endowing him, nevertheless, with the sort of noble instincts that motivate him to sift through the scum in order to identify right from wrong. Crumley’s detectives are curiously amoral moralists.”

From the guide to the James Crumley Papers, 1965-1990, (Southwestern Writers Collection, Special Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University-San Marcos)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Jordan, June, 1936-2002. Audio collection of June Jordan [sound recording]. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Biography -- Crumley, James. Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library
creatorOf James Crumley Papers, 1965-1990 Southwestern Writers Collection, Special Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University-San Marcos
referencedIn National Book Awards. National Book Awards collection, 1996. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Crumley, James, 1939-2008. The pigeon shoot : screenplay / by James Crumley. Texas State University-San Marcos, Albert B. Alkek Library
creatorOf Crumley, James, 1939-2008. James Crumley Papers, 1965-1990. Texas State University-San Marcos, Albert B. Alkek Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country
Private investigators--Fiction
Authors, American--20th century--Sources


Birth 1939-10-12

Death 2008-09-18





Ark ID: w6d52h1p

SNAC ID: 8355869