C.W. Sughrue

Created by James Crumley (1939-2008

"When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."

-- the opening lines of The Last Good Kiss

Speaking of the right madness...

If you're looking for sprawling, impressionistic tales of sex and drugs and guns and rock'n'roll, you've come to the right place. The novels of James Crumley read like the literary equivalent of a Warren Zevon album, with more than a little Hunter S. Thompson's bad craziness and Jack Kerouac wanderlust jacked in.

And C.W. SUGHRUE, the redneck good ol' boy and sometime private eye who hails from Meriweather, Montana, and has a hankering for mind-altering substances, high-powered weaponry and a definitely non-linear approach to detective work, is just the kind of man suited to suited to suck an adventure.

Sure, he sounds a lot like Crumley's other Meriweather gumshoe, Milo Milodragovitch, but C.W.'s wilder, crazier, nastier. They're both veterans, but Milo did his time in Korea, while the slightly younger Sughrue served in Vietnam, where he was court-martialled for "unintentionally" killing an entire Vietnamese family. And while Milo is a basically a kind, generous guy, a bit smarter, a bit gentler, a bit less inclined to violence, Sughrue is a mean son of a bitch, a loaded weapon with a natural-born mean streak.

In fact, Crumley readily acknowledges, "Milo is my good side, Sughrue's the bad." And although they never appeared in the same novel until 1996's Bordersnakes, they both frequently mention a former, nameless partner and now-and-then drinking buddy. It's not too hard a stretch to believe they're referring to each other here. And Crumley himself admits that C.W. and Milo "are friends, actually." (Winter 1994, The Armchair Detective).

And don't be misled by the kinder, gentler C.W. who pops up in the latest novel, 2005's appropriately titled The Right Madness. Oh sure, at first it looks like C.W. has finally cleaned up his act, even quitting smoking. But taking on a case for a psychiatrist pal of his who plays with C.W. in an over-50 softball league (!) soon has him falling back into his old habits, with whiskey, cocaine, assorted painkillers and tobacco right back on the menu and boasting "I was a fistful of random trouble again."

It's not the first time C.W. has fallen off in rather spectacular fashion. In Bordersnakes, we found C.W. almost settled down, with a wife and child. Well, until the supposedly older, wiser Milo showed up, anyway. But you've got to give the bastard credit for at least trying...

Crumley's books are among the most-respected private eye novels of the turn of the millenium, and Crumley earned a reputation as one of that era's foremost writers of private-eye fiction. C.W.'s debut, The Last Good Kiss (1978) is generally considered a stone-cold classic of the genre, and The Mexican Tree Duck received the 1994 Dashiell Hammett Award for Best Literary Crime Novel.

THE EVIDENCE

  • "I'm a private investigator, sir. I leave the blackmailing to the lawyers."

-- C.W. expounds on the legal profession

  • "I've got a hangover that would kill an ordinary man."

-- The Right Madness

NOVELS

SHORT STORIES

CASTING COUCH

  • "In his autobiography, David Carradine talks about the fact that he came very close to playing CW Sughrue in a film version of The Last Good Kiss (I think Robert Altman was set to direct) but it never got made... "

-- Nick Allen back in 2000

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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