Jackie Collins Dead at 77

https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/books/video/2015/sep/20/jackie-collins-on-fifty-shades-of-grey-video

The world lost another of its popular writers this week in the person of Jackie Collins who succumbed to breast cancer. Now I won’t pretend to have been a Jackie Collins fan and, in fact, I don’t recall having read even one of her books, but I know that Ms. Collins had a whole bunch of fans who were saddened by the news of her death, so I wanted to officially mark her death here on Book Chase.

Collins was, of course, best known for her rather risquè books such as Hollywood Wives, so I think that this video (shared today by The Guardian) in which she gives her candid opinion of Fifty Shades of Grey is a fitting and appropriate way to remember her.  

Too, I had to chuckle when I read the part of The Guardian article that said that Collins’s 1968 novel The World Is Full of Married Men was actually banned in the entire countries of South Africa and Australia.  My, how times have changed…

Post #2,566

Ruth Rendell Dead at 85

Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell, who had a stroke in January, died this morning in London.  And all over the world, her countless fans are mourning the loss.

Ruth Rendell has been a constant in my reading life for what feels like forever.  I can’t even remember for certain when I  first discovered her writing or when she became a member of my very select group of  “go to” authors – she just did.  And she will forever hold her place in that group.  

Ruth Rendell, whose first novel was published in 1964, was a “groundbreaker,” a “trendsetter,” choose whichever cliché you want to use because both are apt.  Her work elevated the mystery genre to the status and quality of more literary work and, in fact, I have long called her mysteries “literary mysteries” in order to credit fully the importance  and depth of the characters she creates for her stories.  And, equally importantly, she helped open the door for all the superb female authors who work the genre so well today.  

I will miss the excitement I felt each time I picked up for the first time a brand new Ruth Rendell mystery or a Barbara Vine suspense novel.  I will miss my old pal Inspector Wexford.  

I will miss Ruth Rendell.


The following is a bibliography I worked up for Rendell a while back:
  

Ruth Rendell  February 17, 1930 – May 2, 2015) from South Woodford, London) was a member of the House of Lords, held a Life Peer as Baroness Rendell of Babergh and a 1996 CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire)

Non-Series Books:

To Fear a Painted Devil – 1965
Vanity Dies Hard – 1965
The Secret House of Death – 1968
One Across, Two Down – 1971
The Face of Trespass – 1974
A Demon in My View – 1976
A Judgement in Stone – 1977
Make Death Love Me – 1979
The Lake of Darkness – 1980
Master of the Moor – 1982
The Killing Doll – 1984
The Tree of Hands – 1984
Live Flesh – 1986
Talking to Strange Men – 1987
The Bridesmaid – 1989
Going Wrong – 1990
The Crocodile Bird – 1993
The Keys to the Street – 1996
A Sight for Sore Eyes – 1998
Adam and Eve and Pinch Me – 2001
The Rottweiler – 2003
Thirteen Steps Down – 2004
The Water’s Lovely – 2006
Portobello – 2008
Tigerlily’s Orchids – 2010
The St. Zita Society – 2012
The Girl Next Door – 2014

Short Story Collections:

The Fallen Curtain – 1976
Means of Evil and Other Stories – 1979
The Fever Tree – 1982
The New Girlfriend – 1985
The Copper Peacock – 1991
Blood Lines – 1995
Piranah to Scurfy – 2000
Collected Short Stories, Volume 1 – 2006
Collected Short Stories, Volume 2 – 2008

Novellas:

Heartstones – 1987
The Thief – 2006

The Inspector Wexford Series:

From Doon with Death – 1964
The Sins of the Fathers (A New Lease on Death is UK title) – 1967
Wolf to the Slaughter – 1967
The Best Man to Die – 1969
A Guilty Thing Surprised – 1970
No More Dying Then – 1971
Murder Being Once Done – 1972
Some Lie and Some Die – 1973
Shake Hands Forever – 1975
A Sleeping Life – 1979
Death Notes (Put on by Cunning is UK title) – 1981
The Speaker of Mandarin – 1983
An Unkindness of Ravens – 1985
The Veiled One – 1988
Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter – 1991
Simisola – 1994
Road Rage – 1997
Harm Done – 1999
The Babes in the Wood – 2002
End in Tears – 2005
Not in the Flesh – 2007
The Monster in the Box – 2009
The Vault – 2011
No Man’s Nightingale – 2013

Written as Barbara Vine:

A Dark-Adapted Eye – 1986
A Fatal Inversion – 1987
The House of Stairs – 1988
Gallowglass – 1990
King Solomon’s Carpet – 1991
Asta’s Book – 1993
No Night Is too Long – 1994
The Brimstone Wedding – 1995
The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy – 1998
Grasshopper – 2000
The Blood Doctor – 2002
The Minotaur – 2005
The Birthday Present – 2008
The Child’s Child – 2012

Children’s Books:
Archie and Archie – 2013

Non-Fiction:

Ruth Rendell’s Suffolk – 1989
Undermining the Central Line: giving government back to the people (with Colin Ward) – 1989
The Reason Why: An Anthology of the Murderous Mind – 1995

Books Reviewed on Book Chase are linked in “red.”

Terry Pratchett – Dead at 66

Terry Pratchett

Author Terry Pratchett first announced in December 2007 that he had early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  As I noted in this December 12, 2007 posting, Mr. Pratchett was only 59 years old when he made the announcement on his illustrator’s website.  

Then in June, 2011, the author announced that he was “considering his options” to letting Alzheimer’s kill him.  According to Pratchett, he was preparing to sign the forms that would lead to his assisted suicide at a Geneva clinic.

Today comes word from the BBC that Terry Pratchett, aged 66, is dead and that he died at home, surrounded by his family…with his cat asleep on the bed beside him.  

From the BBC:

The announcement of his death was made on Sir Terry’s Twitter account on Thursday afternoon, with Rhianna (his daughter) later writing: “Many thanks for all the kind words about my dad. Those last few tweets were sent with shaking hands and tear-filled eyes.” 
Despite campaigning for assisted suicide after his diagnosis, Sir Terry’s publishers said he did not take his own life.
BBC News correspondent Nick Higham said: “I was told by the publishers his death was entirely natural and unassisted, even though he had said in the past he wanted to go at a time of his own choosing.”

Without a doubt, the fantasy writer will be greatly missed by his fans, and they will remember him forever.  He was special.

The following is a 2010 documentary that Mr. Pratchett participated in on behalf of the legalization of “assisted dying” in his home country.  It is a beautiful piece of work, but do be warned that it is graphic and one man does die in front of the cameras:

John Bayley Dead at 89


I’m not going to lie and claim that I was much of aware of English critic and novelist John Bayley before I stumbled upon his memoir, Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch, in which Bayley recounts the intimate details of his marriage and life with his more famous wife.  

I happened upon the book in a London bookstore in 1998 and, as I recall, I had read the whole thing within two days of having purchased it.  I was so struck by the utter modesty of the man as he downplayed his own achievements to focus the book almost entirely on his wife, that I came away from it a big admirer of John Bayley: the man, if not so much John Bayley: the critic.   Bayley was the lone caretaker for his wife as she went through the whole downward spiral that is Alzheimer’s.  He was there for her from the very beginning…and he was there for her at the end.

Now comes word from the U.K. that John Bayley has died at age 89, and I cannot help but miss knowing that this gentle soul is no longer with us.  

All told, Bayley wrote three memoirs about Iris Murdoch, but I want to quote from the prologue of the last one, Iris and Her Friends: A Memoir of Memory and Desire, because of how perfectly the quote captures the tone of all three of the books:

I can hardly believe it’s all over.  At the end it happened so quickly.  My diary says that Iris and I were together, struggling along in the particular way that an Alzheimer’s patent and caregiver do, less than three weeks ago.

And then between one day and the next, it became all but impossible to get her to eat and drink.  I coaxed her in every way I could think of, but she seemed abruptly to have given up being a good, if sometimes difficult, child, and became a sadly determined adult.  Politely and smilingly, she declined to open her mouth to have a teaspoon or the edge of a cup put in, as if she had decided it was no longer worthwhile.

Iris Murdoch was a great writer and she had a brilliant mind. Perhaps I shouldn’t, but I always feel that Alzheimer’s is a greater tragedy for people like her to suffer than it would be for the rest of us more ordinary types (wrongheaded thinking, I know).   Iris was very lucky to have had a man like John Bayley in her life.  

Rest in peace, Mr.  Bayley.  You will be long remembered even by those of us who know you more for what you did for Iris Murdoch than what you accomplished during your own brilliant career as writer, critic, and teacher.

Norman Birdwell, Creator of "Clifford The Big Red Dog," Dead at 86

(Photo from Clifford’s Facebook Page)

Norman Birdwell, who created all of those wonderful children’s books  about “Clifford The Big Red Dog,” died last Friday (December 12, 2014) at the age of 86.  Although an official cause of death has not yet been released, the Associated Press reports that Birdwell had been hospitalized for the past several weeks following a bad fall he suffered at his home on Martha’s Vineyard.  He is also known to have been fighting prostate cancer.

The more than forty Big Red Dog books have been translated into thirteen languages, and it is estimated that there are over 126 million copies of them in print.  Clifford, along with his best friend Emily, also starred in two animated television series that remain popular today.  

Too, I still remember the Big Red Dog software program I used in helping to teach my now-15-year-old granddaughter how to read.  And I can only guess at how many hours I spent reading Clifford books to her, her brother, and cousin as they all progressed through their pre-reading years.  

 

Norman Birdwell

Norman Birdwell’s stories are wonderful, and they always have a good lesson to teach without being too obvious about it all.  Maybe that’s why kids love the books so much – and why they don’t bore the parents and grandparents who are reading them aloud over and over again.

Clifford and Emily always made me smile, and I sincerely thank Mr. Birdwell for his contribution to children’s literature.

P.D. James Dead at 94


“What the detective story is about is not murder but the restoration of order.”  P.D. James




Author P.D. James, best known for her Adam Dalgliesh novels died this morning at her home in Oxford.  Phyllis Dorothy James, who carried the title Baroness James of Holland Park, was born in Oxford on August 3, 1920.  She sat in the House of Lords as a member of the Conservative Party.

The author’s career began relatively late in her life and she did not prove to be an especially prolific writer, producing only 14 Dalgliesh novels from 1962 to 2008.  She also wrote two Cordella Gray novels, three standalone novels, and three books of nonfiction.  Her last novel was Death Comes to Pemberley which was published in 2011 – and she is credited with writing the screen adaptation for the same in 2013.  Reportedly, the author had a novel in progress at the time of her death.

Two daughters, Claire and Jane, five grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren survive Ms. James.



Elmore Leonard Dead at 87

(Uncredited New York Times Photo)
Hearing of Elmore Leonard’s death this morning is another reminder of just how short life is – and how the older one gets, the quicker time seems to scream past.  Admittedly, the man’s output slowed down a bit when he reached his eighties, and some would argue that his best work was long behind him, but few could argue that Elmore Leonard was still a player, a solid presence, in the world of books, film, and television. 
I have been reading Elmore Leonard since the mid-seventies when 52 Pick-Up caught my eye in a little used-book store.  The dialogue in that book, and in every other Elmore Leonard novel I have ever read, was so realistic that I continued to jump on every new title of his I came across.  He became part of my small group of “go-to” authors; writers I trusted never to let me down no matter what direction their writing might take.  Sure, I enjoyed some Elmore Leonard books more than others, but I never felt cheated by one of them.
For years, I thought of Elmore Leonard as a paperback writer because I was fast accumulating a closet full of his novels in that format.  That image didn’t change for me until Leonard finally hit the national consciousness and his hardback titles began to sell in numbers equal to what he had been selling in the cheaper format.  I suppose, deep down, he will always be one of my paperback guys – those writers I could buy cheap during the years I could only dream of spending hardback money on anyone no matter how much I admired their writing.
But the two Elmore Leonard books I most prize today both turned out to be hardcovers.  One is called Dutch Treat and includes three relatively early novels of Leonard’s: The Hunted, Swag, and Mr. Majestyk.  The other is a self-explanatorily titled book called The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard.  There are thirty stories in the collection, the earliest of which were written at a time Leonard was selling his stories at the rate of two cents a word and netted him about $100 each.  One of the best things about the collection is that the endpapers are illustrated by the covers of all the 1950s magazines that published the stories, magazines such as: Argosy, The Saturday Evening Post, Western Story, Zane Grey’s Western, Dime Western, and Ten Story Western Magazine.
As happens when one grows older, I am fast losing all the heroes and positive influences of my youth.  Elmore “Dutch” Leonard was among those who made my short list and, while I will miss the anticipation of what he will write next, he will live on in my memory – and the lifetime of superb work he left behind will keep him alive forever. 
Thanks, “Dutch,” for the memories.

Christopher Hitchens Dead at 62

By now, most of you know that Christopher Hitchens died yesterday in Houston where he spent his final days battling the cancer that killed him.  The news of his death, though not unexpected, is saddening.  I will keep this simple – and from my heart.  I don’t want to get into all the specific things that Christopher Hitchens accomplished in his 62 years.  Rather, I want to share with you why I admired Christopher Hitchens, the man, so much.

Hitchens was probably the most politically incorrect man I’ve ever run across.  I didn’t always agree with him, but Hitchens told it like it was, not worrying about offending anyone, hurting feelings, or avoiding buzz words that could be distorted and used by others in a personal attack on him.  He was interested in telling the truth as he saw it, and he pulled no punches in getting his message out.  I loved him for that.

The man was brilliant.  Read his essays, magazine pieces, and books if you don’t believe me.  He was passionate about the injustices he saw in the world and he wanted to make the rest of us passionate enough to insist that something be done about those things.  He recognized the enemy and he would not apologize for pointing out exactly who that was.  Of course, he made many enemies along the way, but those enemies, more often than not, exposed themselves as being on the wrong side of history while attempting to prove Hitchens wrong.

And, finally, I admire Christopher Hitchens for not finding God in his final days.  For eighteen months, Hitchens knew that he was dying, giving him plenty of time to reject his atheism in favor of Christianity or some other “acceptable” religion.  That he did not play that game, proves his personal courage.  Christopher Hitchens left this world walking the walk, not just talking it.  I will miss him.

Previous Book Chase posts on Christopher Hitchens:

Christopher Hitchens’s “Year of Living Dyingly”
Hitch-22: A Memoir
Christopher Hitchens on Cancer Etiquette 
Chris Hitchens in the Battle of His Life

The Cat Who Is No More (Lilian Jackson Braun Dead at 97)

Bestselling author Lilian Jacskon Braun died on June 4 at age 97 according to her husband, Earl Bettinger.  Braun was the author of 29 “The Cat Who…” mysteries, a series she began in 1966 with The Cat Who Could Read Backwards.  According to Bettinger, Braun was working on the 30th book in the series at the time of her death.

After adding two more books to the series, Braun devoted herself to a full-time job with the Detroit newspaper, and eighteen years would pass before she published the fourth “The Cat Who…” book.  The last book in the series, The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, was released by Putnam in January 2007, and what would have been book number 30, The Cat Who Smelled Smoke, has now been cancelled.

Braun, who was born on June 20, 1913, missed her 98th birthday by just sixteen days.

(I have seen Ms. Braun’s books in bookstores for most of my life, it seems.  They are hard to miss in the mystery section because of the way the covers generally share a common design – but I never read one, always getting the impression that the books were of the “cozy” type more aimed at a female audience than a male one.  Whatever the case, she was a major figure in mystery writing for a long, long time, and I’m sure that her fans are saddened by news of her death.)

Robert B. Parker Dead at 77

I was shocked this afternoon to learn of the sudden death of Spenser creator, Robert B. Parker. Mr. Parker was only 77 years old and, these days, that doesn’t really seem to be all that old. Parker wrote books other than the ones in his Spencer series, of course, but he will be long remembered for creating that wonderful Boston detective.

In my reading experience, Spenser broke new ground. He was a man’s man and he was a woman’s man. He could take care of himself and he showed little fear; he believed that the fight of good against evil was a worthy one; he loved to help the underdog and was especially protective of women. He had a long-term relationship with a beautiful woman and he never cheated on her. His best friend was a huge African American man and their friendship was so special that their relationship became one of my favorite things about a Spenser novel. Parker allowed Spenser to age over the years but he remained the same man he always was.

Other writers took the Spenser model and modified it enough to create series characters of their own but Spenser was out there very early in the game, helping to show them the way. I didn’t discover Robert B. Parker until 1982 and I remember being thrilled to find out about all the earlier Spenser books. Within a few months, I caught up and had read all the Spenser novels written to that point – and for many years I read the new ones as quickly as I could find them.

Rest in peace, Mr. Parker. I thank you for all the books I’ve enjoyed over the years and I will really miss you.

(The second photo is from the back flap of 1983’s The Widening Gyre, the tenth Spenser novel and the first one I purchased in hardcover – when hardcovers were going for $12.95 each.)

Frank McCourt Dead at 78

Comes word from the New York Times and others that author Frank McCourt, most famous for the story of his Depression-era Irish childhood, Angela’s Ashes, died this afternoon of cancer. McCourt, who was in his mid-sixties when Angela’s Ashes was published, was recently treated for melanoma, according to the Times and had, in addition, contracted a serious case of meningitis. The death was announced by McCourt’s brother, Malachy, who is also a writer.

Described in Newsweek as “the publishing industry’s Cinderella story of the decade,” “Angela’s Ashes” rose to No. 1 on bestseller lists, was translated into more than 20 languages and sold more than 4 million copies worldwide.

It also won the Pulitzer for biography and the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction and was turned into a movie in 1999.

In the process, “Angela’s Ashes” propelled its author from obscurity to fame and fortune.

The white-haired publishing sensation made the rounds of the talk shows, was the subject of a “60 Minutes” profile and was in constant demand as a speaker because, as Newsweek pointed out in 1999, “he’s witty, articulate and he’s got the perfect Irish brogue: lyrical but penetrable.”

“At 66, you’re supposed to die or get hemorrhoids,” McCourt told the Hartford Courant in 2003. “I just wrote the book and was amazed and astounded that it became a bestseller and won the Pulitzer Prize. It still hasn’t sunk in.”

I remember very well how taken I was with the book and the fact that it had been written by a man already retired from a lifetime’s work. I think I found that fact more inspirational than anything in the book itself, although I did love that book. I’ve never gone back to reread it – and I wonder if it would work so well for me today. I may just have to find out.

Aw, Man…Dom DeLuise Dead at 75

Sad news today from the world of entertainment – and books, too, since Dom was the author of a couple of cookbooks.

According to his son, Dom DeLuise passed away last night. Dom seldom failed to make me laugh whether it was on television or in the movies that I spotted him. He was one of the funniest men of his generation, and that is saying a lot when one considers how many great comics were working at Don’s peak.

A Houston Chronicle article had this to say about Mr. DeLuise:

He was 75.

His son, Michael DeLuise, told Los Angeles TV station KTLA and radio station KNX that his father died Monday night.

The actor, who loved to cook and eat almost as much as he enjoyed acting, also carved out a formidable second career later in life as a chef of fine cuisine. He authored two cookbooks and would appear often on morning TV shows to whip up his favorite recipes.

As an actor, he was incredibly prolific, appearing in scores of movies and TV shows, in Broadway plays and voicing characters for numerous cartoon shows.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Dom DeLuise but it still feels as if I’ve lost an old friend. He was one of the most genuinely likable entertainers ever and he will be greatly missed. Rest in peace, Dom.

JG Ballard Dead at 78

Another literary giant, one who has been ill for a number of years, is gone. JG Ballard, who is probably best known for Empire of the Sun and the more recent Crash, died this morning in the U.K. of prostate cancer according to Sky News.

Ballard was a controversial writer and many readers found his work, especially books like Crash, to be shocking, even disgusting. I don’t consider myself to be a fan of his work but I will always remember the experience of reading Empire of the Sun, his personal story about a little boy captured in Shanghai by the Japanese during World War II. Ballard was 12 years old when captured and placed in the camp where he would be held for the next three years.

JG Ballard will be long remembered.

Philip Jose Farmer Dead at 91

It is another sad day in the literary world.

Philip Jose Farmer, one of the Kings of Science Fiction, author of one of the book series I most enjoyed in my whole life (the Riverworld books) died yesterday in his sleep.

From the Chicago Tribune:

The longtime Peoria resident wrote more than 75 novels, including the Riverworld and World of Tiers series. He won the Hugo Award three times and the Grand Master Award for Science Fiction in 2001.

Farmer was “one of the great ones,” according to a statement on the web site of Subterranean Press, which published his later novels.

“He was always a joy to work with, and we will dearly miss his intelligence and good nature,” the statement said.

I remember being so excited when I discovered the Riverworld books that I gave the whole set (four paperbacks at that time) to friends and co-workers for Christmas one year. I lost myself in those books in a way that has seldom happened since, in fact. Just picture the premise: every human being who has ever lived wakes up one morning, naked and bewildered, along the banks of what seems like a never-ending river. Picture Mark Twain, Hitler, cave men, Sir Richard Burton, Alice Liddel and many other famous people interacting and teaming up for a battle of good vs. evil. Throw in the fact that anyone dying along the river wakes up somewhere else on the river the very next morning…is suicide a way to travel to a more pleasant part of the river bank, a way to escape captivity, a way to search for a loved one?

If you enjoy this kind of fantasy and have somehow missed Riverworld, do yourself a favor and read at least the first volume now in honor of the wonderful writer who imagined and shared them with the rest of us. I can’t think of a better tribute to Mr. Farmer than a few thousand people reading Riverworld all over again.

These are the first two books in the series (and my favorites) for anyone wanting to look into them a little more:

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=boocha01-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0345419677&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=boocha01-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0345419685&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

Another great one is gone…damn.

John Updike Dead at 76

Comes word today that we’ve lost another of the great ones. This time it’s John Updike – who passed away sometime this morning from the lung cancer he’s been fighting.

I will always remember him best for his Rabbit books, the series of books published over a thirty-year period that chronicled the ups and downs of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a former high school basketball player just trying to make his way in the world. Most recently, Updike had seen some success with his follow-up to 1984’s The Witches of Eastwick, The Widows of Eastwick, his 23rd, and I would think, his last published novel.

Updike, winner of two Pulitzer prizes, was a masterful writer, one of the finest ever produced by this country. It will be strange not to see a new John Updike novel in 2009 because he seldom let a year go by without something new to offer his fans. Rest in peace, Mr. Updike. We’ll miss you.

John Mortimer Dead at 85

I saw late last night that John Mortimer, one of the first British writers that I read on a regular basis, has died in a London hospital from a long illness. I will always think of those great Rumpole of the Bailey books when I think of John, of course, but I have thoroughly enjoyed most all of his fiction for a long time.

I was lucky enough to stumble upon a 1992 book signing of his in a London bookstore one day and still have that pristine, signed copy of Dunster on my bookshelves.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who had the phrase “she who must be feared” flit through his mind immediately upon hearing of John’s death. His Rumpole books always made me smile – and the news that he might have been working on another Rumpole book at the time of his death is a bit sad because Rumpole fans will never know the pleasure of reading that one.

We’ll miss you, Mr. Mortimer. Thank you for so many hours of reading pleasure.

Link to 17 minute John Mortimer interview conducted by Don Swaim in 1987

Michael Crichton Dead at 66


Michael Crichton died today from cancer-related causes, something that will surprise most fans of his books and movies. This, as far as I can tell, was a very well kept secret.

Crichton, a man who literally stood out in a crowd because of his unusual height of six feet, seven inches, will be remembered most prominently, of course, for the great success of Jurassic Park, both in book form and as a huge movie. But there was a lot more to this man. He earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and spent some time teaching at both Cambridge University and MIT. He was a brilliant man who helped develop a type of “disaster novel” that is still very popular in print and on film.

He will certainly be missed.

My first thought upon hearing of Crichton’s passing was how strange it is that it has happened again: a series of three, seemingly related, deaths within a very short period of time. First it was Tony Hillerman, than Studs Terkel, and now Michael Crichton. This is one of those old wives’ tales that seems to prove itself true two or three times a year.

Studs Terkel Dead at 96


Studs Terkel, a symbol of Chicago for so many years, has died. Mr. Terkel, according to the Chicago Tribune, suffered a fall two weeks ago that seems to have led to his death, something that so often happens to people in their eighties and nineties.

Most of his books were written radio. Terkel asked questions and then listened. He drew out of people things they didn’t know they had in them.

“I think of myself as an old-time craftsman,” Terkel said. “I’ve been doing this five days a week, for more than 30 years. When I realize the work is slipping, I’ll quit. But I don’t think I’ve reached that point yet. I still have my enthusiasm. I still love what I do.”

And he was far from finished doing it.

What will be his last book, “P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening,” is scheduled for a November release. Terkel was a one-of-a-kind writer who lived a unique life. I’ll miss him.

Arthur C. Clarke Is Dead at 90

I just heard that Arthur C. Clarke has died in Sri Lanka at age 90. Mr. Clarke is said to have developed breathing problems that turned into a full blown “cardio-respiratory attack.”

Arthur C. Clarke was one of the mainstays of my teen reading years, several of which I spent reading science fiction almost exclusively. He was one of the great thinkers in his field and he will be long remembered for his contributions to the genre. For me he will always be one of the “Big Three” sci-fi writers, the guys who set my imagination on fire and had a lot to do with getting me started on a lifetime of reading: Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlen, and Arthur C. Clarke.

YouTube states that it has been asked not to enable this video for direct embedding within other websites. But if you would like to hear from Mr. Clarke on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday, just click the link and watch it on the YouTube site.

Some We Lost in 2007

This is a list that I compiled this evening of writers, critics and others involved in the publishing world who passed away in 2007. Sadly, it is probably far from complete so if you know of any I’ve missed pleased mention them in your comments so that I can add them to the list. Thanks.

January:

Robert Anton Wilson, 74 – co-author of “The Illuminatus Trilogy”
Art Buchwald, 81 – author and humorist
Sidney Sheldon, 89 – author
Molly Ivins, 62 – political writer and humorist
Peter Tompkins, 87 – author of “The Secret Life of Plants”
Barbara Seranella – mystery writer

February:
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., 89 – historian
Marianne Fredriksson, 79 – much-admired Swedish author
Lothar-Guenther Buchheim, 89 – German author of “Das Boot”

March:
Henri Troyat, 95 – prolific French author
Robert E. Petersen, 80 – magazine publisher
Michael Dibdin, 60 – author most famous for his “Aurelio Zen” mysteries

April:
Kurt Vonnegut, 84 – author
David Halberstam, 73 – historian and journalist famous for baseball writing

May:
Lloyd Alexander, 83 – author of children’s books
Mark Harris, 84 – most famous for his baseball books like “Bang the Drum Slowly”

June:
William Meredith, 88 – prize-winning poet
Richard Rorty – American philosopher
Nazek al-Malaika, 85 – Iraqi poet
Fred T. Saberhagen, 77 – science fiction author

July:
Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, 68 – writer of historical romances
John Graham, 80 – author of children’s books

August:
Grace Paley, 84 – short story writer and poet
Edward Seidensticker, 86 – translator of Japanese literature

September:
Madeleine L’Engle, 88 – author most famous for “A Wrinkle in Time”
Robert Jordan, 58 – fantasy author

October:
Peg Bracken, 89 – author of the “I Hate to Cook Book”

November:
Norman Mailer, 84 – author and celebrity
Ira Levin, 78 – author most famous for “Rosemary’s Baby”

December:
Elizabeth Hardwick, 91 – author and critic, co-founder of The New York Review of Books