Monday, September 24, 2007

James Reasoner

I'm picking up on a recommendation Bill Crider posted yesterday. That being a long interview with James Reasoner posted on that fine western site Saddlebums.

This isn't of interest only to western fans. In the course of it James discusses many of the moments he's enjoyed and endured in a full time writing career that stretches past the thirty year mark.

Not until I read the interview did I realize how many books of James I've read. Starting back in the 70s with all the Brett Halliday lead novelettes he wrote for Mike Shayne mystery magazine. Awhile back I posted a piece on the work he's doing for the Longarm series. When James says that he does his best with every assignment, including house name work, he's not boasting. He's telling the truth. I've read four of his more recent Longarms in the past month and a half and each is a fine, considered and successful piece of storytelling craft.

Then there's the work he's done under his own name, especially the noirs Texas Wind and Dust Devils. For me these rank among the best crime fiction of the past twenty five years (though technically Texas Wind reaches back more than thirty). His story about selling Texas Wind to Manor Books is both funny and heartbreaking. That was quite an outfit.

Thirty-some years in the business of full-time writing. Think of all the names large and small that have disappeared in that time. All the flavors of the month. All the critics' darlings. All the overpaid and overhyped wunderkinds who weren't so wonderful after all.

I think of James as having a career comparable to Gene Hackman. No he doesn't make Hackman's money; no he doesn't have Hackman's celebrity. But as an artist and craftsman he has Hackman's ability to adapt to a variety of tasks and commit himself completely. Not a whisper of hackwork. Full tilt. And like Hackman the work is occasionally brilliant. Check out Texas Wind and Dust Devils if you doubt me.

And to end with a piece of news-I'm pretty sure that soon enough there be a collecton of James' best short stories. He's as good short form as along form.

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