Monday, September 25, 2023

Too Late To Die by Bill Crider

"There were many county sheriffs, and Rhodes knew some of them, who were really politicians—men who liked the title, but not the job; men who turned all the work over to their deputies and spent their time in the drugstores drinking coffee with the rest of the good old boys. Men like Ralph Claymore. Rhodes had never been like that, and he never could be." 

A few weeks ago Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery (please check out Tracy's excellent website under blogs I follow) was reviewing Murder Most Fowl, book seven in Bill Crider's Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery series.  Now I am normally hesitant to check out a new series because I have too many books on my TBR list as it is.  But I was intrigued by Tracy's review of Murder Most Fowl and so I decided to start with the first book in Bill Crider's Dan Rhodes mystery series, Too Late To Die (1986) and I found it to be a very enjoyable experience

Too Late To Die (1986) is set in Clearview, a small town within Blacklin County, TX.  There is no serious crime in Clearview and the people who live there have known each other for years.  Dan Rhodes is the Sheriff of Clearview.  He has a small department consisting of his deputy, Johnny Sherman, the dispatcher, old Hack Jensen and Lawton the jailer who as the book describes him is almost as old as Hack Jensen.  

Sheriff Dan Rhodes is running for reelection when Too Late To Die begins.  He doesn't like the politics and the backslapping part of his job but he understands it comes with the territory.  Sheriff Rhodes' wife Claire passed away a year back and he misses her very much.  He has a grown daughter named Cathy who he has a good relationship with.  Sheriff Rhodes is smart and thoughtful.  He doesn't throw his weight around but when trouble arrives he will meet it courageously.

And trouble arrives when a local woman Jeanne Clinton who everyone in Clearview knew and liked is found murdered in her home.  Jeanne in her younger days was rather wild but a few years back she married her husband Elmer Clinton who is 30 years her senior.  Despite the age difference it seems to have been a good marriage.  But then Jeanne turns up dead and it turns out that while Elmer was at work a number of men in the neighborhood would drop by Jeanne's house for coffee.  Was it just coffee and talk or something more?  DId one of these men get rebuffed and murder Jeanne or did her husband Elmer find out and in a fit of jealousy lose control?

On paper Too Late To Die may sound like an average small town mystery novel with a conventional plot and a good-hearted Sheriff trying to solve the case.  But Too Late To Die won the prestigious Anthony Award in 1987 for best first novel and what set the book apart for me was the writing.  Bill Crider has a very nice writing style.  I enjoyed the humor that is delicately placed throughout the book.  I enjoyed descriptions of Clearview and its people.  Bill Crider spends his time on local color and customs and it pays off. I never knew for example how popular Dr. Pepper is in Texas and very refreshing in the hot climate of Clearview.  And most important there is Sheriff Dan Rhodes who is interesting, smart, a good man and I see myself following him at least into book two of this series.


  1. Picking up another mystery series eh? This one sounds small town and good with the sheriff character. I don't think I have heard of Bill Crider. Is he still around? Dr. Pepper in Texas hmm ... I graduated univ in Texas in 1987 and what I recall is margaritas there. LoL.

  2. Hi Susan, I know, I have so many books I shouldn't be picking up another series LoL and actually if I were younger I might see myself tackling a good portion of Bill Crider's 25 book Sheriff Dan Rhodes series but I will try book two and then go back to my TBR file.

    Sadly Bill Crider passed away a few years back but I checked his Wikipedia page and boy was he prolific. He wrote in many genres and if Too Late To Die is any indication he was a talented writer.

    Regarding Dr Pelper it was invented in Texas and originally sold only within TX and I googled and learned that if Texas has a signature drink its Dr. Pepoer but also Margaritas, My guess someone has probably figured out a drink that mixes the two.

  3. I find myself hesitating before starting a new series these days, too. Because like you I already am in the middle of several series...and behind in so many of them. But I can see why you wanted to read this one. Sheriff Dan Rhodes sounds like a character I would really like. :D

  4. Hi Lark, I did like Sheriff Rhodes and I see possibilities in setting future mysteries in the town of Clearview . But my TBR pile is too long. I must make a dent in it and on my vast TBR list there are probably a number of hidden gems that I have not yet read and am missing out on. I need to pick up those books in my bookshelf and find out what have I been missing!

  5. Bill Crider was one of our local writers and he had a really great book blog going for a number of years. I still vividly remember the day he posted what he said would announced as his last posting to the blog because his cancer had made it impossible for him to go on. Sadly, he did not last much longer. I saw him around town a few times in bookstore and book fair events and he was always personable and fun to talk with about his books...and just about anything else really. I was into collecting those old pulp paperbacks with the flashy covers for a while, and Bill was always available to point me in the right direction and to give his opinion on the covers because he was a big fan of them, too. Last time I managed to speak with him was about the "feminist" western character of his that I really loved. I really like that people are still talking about his books.

    1. Hi Sam just found Bill Crider's blog that goes back to 2002. I am definitely going to read it because he's a very fine writer and Westerns are a genre I very much enjoy. So glad his family left his blog up so we can all continue to read him.

  6. Oh, I had to come back to add one thing. Dr Pepper is king of the soft drinks in Texas. It was concocted in Fort Worth, and it's our states answer to Coca Cola. We even have an ice cream flavor made by Blue Bell that mixes real Dr Pepper syrup with vanilla ice cream and calls it self Dr Pepper float ice cream. I probably shouldn't, but I drink at least two Dr Peppers every day of the week and have done so for at least the last 50 years.

  7. Hi Sam, Thanks so much for sharing your memories of Bill Crider and it's great that you knew him and that he was a local writer and a nice man. That's sad that near the end he had to quit his blog because of the cancer. I might check to see if his blog has been left online because I would like to check it out and I will give a look to his feminist Western character as well.

    Dr Pepper truly is popular in Texas and elsewhere. In his memoir Larry McMurty begins the book sipping a Dr Pepoer with a twist of lime. But I also drink too much in the way of soft drinks. Must drink more water!

  8. I am so glad you enjoyed the first Sheriff Dan Rhodes book by Bill Crider. I want to read the whole series and I have now read seven of them. They are very short and quick reads, but I do have the problem with starting new series.

    I love that Dan Rhodes drinks Dr. Pepper. That was always a favorite soda of mine also, and my son still favors them and has them often. (I don't drink soda any more.) Dan Rhodes also loves barbecue, and I love Southern barbecue.

    I used to read Bill's blog, although not every post because he posted a lot. But lots of good reviews there. He was amazing and he loved old mass market paperback books like I did. I still do but I cannot read them so well anymore so I just enjoy the ones I still have.

  9. Hi Tracy, I did enjoy the book and thanks for letting me know about Bill Crider. I drink too much soda so maybe a Dr Pepper or a Coke every now and then but no more is the way I need to go. And I haven't had barbecue in awhile so I want to find a good place near me.

    The old paperbacks were the best, the stories but also the covers made them worth collecting. I wish they would bring them back.

  10. You are right. While I was reading your review, I was thinking that Too Late to Die did sound pretty conventional. And like you, I have more than enough TBR books to take on a new series, but good writing gets me every time. I will give this one a try. Great review!

  11. Thanks Jane and Bill Crider is worth a read and Too Late To Die is not a long book. It's about 160 pages and the first book provides a good setting for future novels in the series. I must check out Bill Crider's. blog which he kept for many years and which I have heard good things about.