James Crumley, The Mexican Tree Duck
James Crumley became and still is a cult figure in the development of the modern American crime novel. This is one of his best novels, his first 10 years and issued in 1993; being one of only 75 numbered and signed copies in a special binding with an appreciation by old friend and colleague Maxim Jakubowski.
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James Crumley’s (1939 – 2008) experiences as an army serviceman in the Philippines and in Vietnam provided insights into his later work as a novelist – anti dogmatic, anti-authority, a world where right does not always triumph, it is hard to see what lies ahead and there are always loose ends. Following the war-related novel, One Count to Cadence (1969) Crumley turned to the frontier crime-adventure story. He used two protagonist detectives. Firstly, Milton Chester Milodragovitch, known as Milo, is a multiply divorced, hard-drinking, cocaine-snorting womanizer. The second, C. W. Sughrue is a former Vietnam vet and is similarly a hard-drinking, cocaine-snorting womanizer. He is introduced in The Last Good Kiss as long ago as 1978 and appears again in this novel and also in The Right Madness (2005).
Crumley had a cult following with those that had a disdain for the tragedy that befell the young soldiers caught up in Vietnam. He was a collected author before he turned to his detective writing. The tough borderland territory and bad characters – made more so by the failing institutions of law and order. He always had a particular cult following in the US and Europe. It is said that he influenced Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos. I would hazard a guess that others were influenced too – one might mention Scott Phillips and James Carlos Blake. The Mexican Tree Duck was issued in 1993 and received the Dashiell Hammett Award. James Crumley’s old friend and colleague Maxim Jakubowski was asked to write the appreciation for this edition.