Writing advice from crime novelist James Crumley

For me, James Crumley ranks right up there with the likes of Donald Westlake (AKA Richard Stark) and Raymond Chandler. His novel, The Last Good Kiss, is on constant rotation in my home, popping up on my e-reader at least once every few months.

Crumley never sorted out a list or book full of writing advice before he passed away. However, the folks at CrimeReads were good enough to assemble one, made up of tidbits from interviews he gave over the years.

My favorite rule of the lot comes from a 1993 interview with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air:

Always tell strangers you sued the telephone company.

"For years I wouldn't tell anyone in a bar that I was a writer. I would tell them that the telephone company had run over my foot and I had gotten a big settlement and I was living off that. It was a wonderful way to begin a conversation because everyone has had trouble with the telephone company in one way or another and they're always happy to see someone who's engaged them and won. So they start that and you get the stories without them having to turn to you and say 'you're a writer, huh, boy you could make a novel out of my life,' which is the worst way to get a story."

Given how folks tend to ask me for my opinion about the upcoming election (which I can't really talk about) when they find out who I work for, I'm totally gonna give this a spin.

To read the full list of Crumley's advice, click your way over to CrimeReads. While you're there, be sure to check out the rest of the site. It's pretty great.