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AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES CRUMLEY James Crumley© Steve Collector James Crumley is the author of a collection of short fiction and essays, The Muddy Fork and Other Things and four novels: One to Count Cadence, The Wrong Case, The Last Good Kiss, and Dancing Bear. For the past several years he has divided his time between Los Angeles, where he writes screenplays, and Missoula, Montana. His fifth novel, The Mexican Tree Duck, is forthcoming. This interview was conducted by Kay Bonetti, Director of the American Audio Prose Library, in Columbia, Missouri in April, 1992, in cooperation with The Missouri Review. The Prose Library offers tapes of American authors reading and discussing their work. For information contact AAPL at P.O. Box 842, Columbia, MO 65205. An Interview with James CrumleyIKay Bonetti Bonetti: Mr. Crumley, you grew up in south Texas, didn't you? Where is south Texas, exactly? Crumley: Tm not sure. It has to be south of San Antonio and west of Victoria, and east of Laredo, and north of the Rio Grande VaUey. I was born in south Texas, then lived in New Mexico and Arizona until I was seven and we moved back to the HUl Country. We didn't get back to south Texas until I was almost eight. Bonetti: Tve noticed the presence of strong, older women in your fiction. They're sometimes positive figures, sometimes negative and, more often than not, very complex. Was there a strong matriarchal pattern in your famUy? Crumley: I came from a matriarchal, Scotch-Irish clan. In any kind of economic subsistence situation women seem to take charge. Up until I was fourteen, my big grandma lived in a half-house, half-barn with dirt floors and no electricity and no telephone. My mother's mother, my grandma, was a cook in a hotel in Johnson City for years and years and years and years after her husband died as a result of a motorcycle accident. As a widow with four children stiU at home, she lived through some straitened circumstances, to say the least. My mother grew up poor, and she always felt poor no matter how much money my father made. There was a strong sense that came from my mother that we weren't as good as the people in the town where we Uved, and I think there was a strong sense from the town that we were newcomers. My mother stiU Uves in that Uttle town in south Texas and occasionaUy I stiU hear her say that she's never reaUy been accepted. I suspect a lot of that is her own sensitivity, but there's no way to know. When I was younger I couldn't eat in restaurants because I was so selfThe Missouri Review · 81 conscious and nervous. Now I don't seem to have any trouble eating anywhere. Bonetti: What did your dad do for a living? Crumley: My father worked in the oilfield most of his Ufe. During World War II he worked in the civU service as an aircraft mechanic. After he came back he started off driving a bulldozer and a truck, and worked his way up to general superintendent of a smaU independent driUing company. Bonetti: Would it be fair to say that the women were a stronger influence? Crumley: My mother has three sisters, so I was pretty much raised by women, but in that society men don't define themselves by women, they define themselves by work. I started going with my father around the oil patch as soon as I was old enough to climb into the pickup truck, and as soon as I was old enough to reach the brake and the clutch Td drive him around. I got to spend a lot of time with my father, but I also spent a lot of time around women. I can't think of any older women who were role models, but women seem to be the people who had the stories. I've never really thought about these things. I just don't know how much effect my Ufe has had on my fiction. I reinvent my Ufe periodicaUy, but I think...


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