Monday, May 10, 2010
New Books: Mississippi Vivian by Bill Crider and Clyde Wilson
From Bill Crider:
Clyde Wilson was one of those bigger-than-life Texans that you read about in books or see in movies. You wonder if they really exist, and then you meet somebody like Clyde.
He was the most famous private-eye in Texas for a good many years, a real Houston legend. His wife used to say that whenever he introduced himself, he’d say, “I’m Clyde Wilson. Do you know who I am?” Nearly everybody in Houston would answer “yes” to that question.
Clyde did all the things you read about in books. He worked undercover during his army days, caught a serial killer, negotiated a hostage situation in Africa, and put a shotgun squad in convenience stores to stop a series of robberies. And a whole lot more.
He told me that once when he was questioning a suspect, he needed to use the restroom. So he took out his glass eye, put it on the table, and said, “I have to go to the toilet, but I’ll be watching you the whole time I’m gone. Don’t you try to get away.” When Clyde came back, the guy was a nervous wreck. The eye was still there, staring at him. Clyde put his eye back in, and the guy confessed everything.
When he retired from the P.I. game, Clyde decided he’d like to write. He’d always been an avid reader of crime novels, and James Lee Burke was a particular favorite. He even liked my books, which is how he and I came to collaborate.
Our first novel, Houston Homicide, was published by Five Star, and while it went into a second printing, it didn’t make either of us rich. I thought that book would be the end of our novel-writing career, but one day Clyde called me and told me he was working on a new novel called Mississippi Vivian that he’d like me to help him with. I couldn’t resist a title like that, so I agreed.
Like Houston Homicide, the new books is loosely based on one of Clyde’s cases. I say “loosely” because Clyde did have a tendency to exaggerate. I’m sure that everything he told me about himself was true, but it was the truth filtered through his unique personality. So while the stories in the novels might have a foundation in truth, they’re really purest fiction.
Except maybe for the character of Mississippi Vivian herself. Clyde insisted that she was a real person, and she certainly alive for me when I read the pages he’d written.
Clyde Wilson died only a couple of weeks after Mississippi Vivian was accepted for publication. I’m sorry he’s not around to see it. I think he’d be proud of it.