I get a kick out of James Crumley. I first read The Last Good Kiss after reading an interview with a recommendation by... I think it was George Pelecanos, maybe Richard Price? I was hooked on Crumley from the first sentence and every time I laughed out loud with CW or Milo I got a bit more committed.
Mr. Crumley's main characters are the kind of dudes on whom I'd probably get a crush in real life. I'm jealous of the women in the stories, even though I know it's always going to end in tears (and on that front, better her than me). His protagonists are fringe dwellers, loners. They're witty and honest and best--or worst--of all, they're hopeless romantics. Crumley's tragic denouements have all the more power because they grow out of longing, libido and most of all, love. He knows how to make a reader care, which is why it guts us when things don't work out so great for his guy.
One of my favourite short stories is Mr. Crumley's 'Hot Springs', which I found in Otto Penzler and James Ellroy's anthology, The Best American Noir Of the Century. For me it was the standout story in a strong collection. Disgraced highschool sports coach Benbow has run off with a heap of his nasty old boss's money and his beautiful young Native wife Mona Sue. Six months later, she's seven months pregnant and they're hiding out at a love-shack hotel by the warm mineral springs where Benbow takes daily soul baths while Mona Sue 'naps' in the company of a local cowpoke... but Benbow's not seeing that. His desire for her is bottomless and blinding and beautifully written.
Six months ago Benbow tasted the sweetness of revenge, and when the old man and his lackeys turn up at the Springs with hammers and knives and sedatives in hand, it's time for Benbow to pay for every touch, for every kiss. The crazy thing is, regardless of the pain he must now endure, we're left with no doubt that for Benbow it was worth it.
That's what I mean, see. Hopeless. Romantic.