Monday, January 4, 2010

Not Yet Time to Say Good-Bye

In October of 2009, the Mystery Book Club read the last novel written by Tony Hillerman who passed away in October 2008. Having been a fan of Mr. Hillerman for over 20 years, I wondered if this re-reading of The Shape Shifter would bring some type of closure to my relationship with this author.

In preparation for the book club discussion I also read Hillerman’s memoir Seldom Disappointed, which won an Agatha Award for best nonfiction work of 2001. This book revealed much about the author’s personal life, how his books were written and how outside forces influenced both. Consequently, no closure came, but rather the desire to re-read more of Tony Hillerman’s books, especially the early novels such as The Blessing Way, Dance Hall of the Dead and The Dark Wind.

Some authors continue to remain popular after they’ve died. Douglas Adams’(1952-2001) Dirk Gently and Hitchhiker’s Guide series are still required reading for science fiction initiates. In fact, fascination with Adams’ characters is so great that Eoin Colfer, author of the popular Artemis Fowl series for children, has just published an authorized new Hitchhiker novel called And Another Thing.

Books by James Michener ( 1907-97) and Taylor Caldwell (1900-85) still remain on library shelves. Ed McBain’s (1926-2005) titles might still be found at the library, but the bookstore probably won’t have any of his books in stock. Novels by Robert Lewis Taylor (1912-98), author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Travels of Jaime McPheeters, are getting hard to find.

William Hoffman, referred to as Virginia’s “least-known best writer,” passed away on September 13, 2009. I especially enjoyed his novels Tidewater Blood and Wild Thorn featuring Charley LeBlanc, the black sheep of a Tidewater family.

While it is sad that Hillerman, Michener, Hoffman and the others are gone, it seems to me that it is not yet time to say goodbye. If you’ve never read anything by these authors I encourage you to do so now. If you’ve read their books, but not recently, this might be a good time to enjoy them again.

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