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A Death in the News

September 19, 2008

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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