One of the joys of my life is perusing the “new books” shelves at the library and unexpectedly coming across the latest book by an author I love.  Sometime I get on the waiting list for a book I know is coming out, but it’s more fun when I don’t know there’s a new one out and suddenly, there it is…right in front of my eyes and within easy snatching reach of my hand!  That brings a huge smile to my face.

However, there’s nothing worse, literarily speaking, (yes, I know literarily’s not a real word, but it’s my word; just pretend I’m Shakespeare inventing new words) than when I read that a favorite author has died.  Because when an author dies, there’s more lost than just that person.  All his or her characters die, too.  It’s not as bad if an author I like is dead when I discover him/her, because I go into the relationship knowing there won’t be any more books coming in subsequent years, no matter how badly I’d like one.

Of course, there are a few exceptions.  Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne lives on through Eric von Lustbader, much to my husband’s dismay because EvL was writing a sci-fi fantasy series Bill liked and discontinued writing it because of Bourne.  Just another death to add to his credit as an assassin!  As a weird aside:  after Ludlum’s death, the inside  back cover of subsequent book jackets, where the author bio is, didn’t acknowledge for years that he had actually died and continued to speak of him as if he were still alive.

Robert Parker’s Spenser and maybe Jesse Stone as well, are still alive through other authors.  I read the Spenser books avidly for years until I realized that a) almost all the characters were as sleazy as were the situations, b) that Hawk, an erudite and handsome man who in reality was an enforcer and killer, was one of my favorite characters and c) I couldn’t get past Spenser being in love with Susan all those years, not because of jealousy, but because I found her a completely unlikeable, annoying character.

But the day I read the Tony Hillerman had died, I realized that not only had the Navajos and other southwest Indian tribes lost a powerful voice, but the Legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee and all the other characters I’d grown to like were now dead as well.  They’d lost their voices just as the Indians had lost theirs.

There are other authors I enjoy who have died during my lifetime, some unexpectedly, and each time it happens, I realize once again that I have lost something precious: the enjoyment I received, the thoughts provoked, the lessons learned, the laughter that spontaneously bubbled up or the tears that were pulled from me, by characters I’ve come to know and love.  That is a loss.

  1. Hillerman, Leaphorn, and Chee died? Well, that’s depressing. 😦 (Being a big fantasy fan myself, I felt much the same way last year when Diana Wynne Jones died. No more Chrestomanci, or Millie, or Cat…)

    • Hillerman’s death effectively killed Leaphorn and Chee, although they didn’t die in the book. As depressing in a different way is what Henning Mankell did to Kurt Wallender when he wrote the last KW book! I can understand wanting to end a series, but the way he did it was so disquieting and sad.

  2. I never thought of it that way, but you are completely right!

  3. Zen says:

    I never thought of it that way… it’s sad to think of favourite authors dying and never getting the chance to read their work ever again. I know I’d be especially sad if… say, Terry Pratchett were to die. =[