Twelve or fourteen years ago I was at a faculty Christmas party at Alvin Community College. When I got back to my office, I got quite a surprise. There was a message on my answering machine from Clyde Wilson.
You might not have heard of Clyde, but nearly everybody in this part of Texas knows that name. He was a private investigator who’d done all manner of things, and he was so well-known outside the state that when Ivana Trump wanted to get the goods on The Donald, she hired Clyde Wilson. He got the goods, too.
I returned Clyde’s call, and he said, “Do you know who I am?” I said that I certainly did, and he asked me to pay him a visit. He wanted someone to help him write the story of his life. Ordinarily I’d have passed on the offer, but Clyde was no ordinary guy. I met with him and said I’d be glad to help out. I thought the book would be a bestseller.
Things didn’t work out quite like that. Little did I know that my agent at the time had taken early retirement without telling anyone and wasn’t sending the manuscript to publishers. Clyde and I finally sold it ourselves to Eakin Press, a Texas publisher. Eakin was going through changes, and they weren’t good ones for us. I don’t know how many copies of the book were printed, but it couldn’t have been many, probably under 500. It sank without a trace, but I’m very proud of it, even if the publisher refused to use my title, going instead with Where the Hell is Addis Ababa? The publisher also called in some big names to “edit” the book, which was fine with me. Didn’t help the sales at all, though.
The best thing about the whole experience was the signing at a Houston B&N. I never saw so many famous Houstonians in one place. Clyde knew everybody, and they all knew him. He had a fine time, and so did I. After that, however, and after a signing at Murder by the Book, the book disappeared.
I thought that would be the end of my association with Clyde, but a year or so later, he called and told me that he’d written a novel, or part of one, and that he’d paid someone to type it up for him. He wanted me to help out with it, so I said I’d take a look. What he’d written turned out to be more of an outline than a book, but I fleshed it out and worked it over pretty well. By that time my agent had disappeared completely, so I sent the book to Five Star. They snapped it up, and Houston Homicide was published. It went through a couple of printings, which must have made Clyde happy because he called up and said he’d started another book, one called Mississippi Vivian. If that’s not a great name for a book, I don’t know what is, and I said I’d be glad to help him with it.
This time, a big bundle of handwritten sheets from a legal pad appeared in my mail. I read through it and saw that there he had the germ of a plot and some good characters. I figured we could work out the rest. Unfortunately, Clyde wasn’t in good health, and he never got to contribute much more to the book. That was okay. He had plenty for me to work with, and I finished the book from his pages and some notes he sent. The day I called to tell him that Five Star had bought the book, he was so sick that I’m not sure he understood me. He passed away shortly afterward.
I’m really sorry he’s not around to see Mississippi Vivian in print. It hits the streets later this month, so be on the lookout. There was one thing Clyde really wanted, and that was to get “A Ted Stephens Mystery” on the front cover of the book. Well, there it is. He’d have loved it. I hope people read the book, and I hope they think it lives up to the title. I’ve already been asked if there’ll be more books in the series, but that’s not going to happen. Clyde’s contribution to them was too great. Without him, there wouldn’t have been any books in the first place, and without him, there won’t be any more. As for me, I’ve retired from collaborations. I won’t be doing another one. Well, not unless Clyde comes back and asks me. I don’t think that will happen, but with Clyde, you can’t be sure.
Bill Crider is the author of more than three dozen books, including the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series, several westerns, a handful of books for young readers, and even a few horror titles under the pen name Jack MacLane. For more information about Bill Crider you can visit his website, or check out his blog, Pop Culture Magazine.