January is definitely cruel
To say that I hate January is an understatement. It is long, cold, and dark in Montana, and I often go a little bit crazy inside the house! This year we’ve flown south, as snowbirds do, and seem to be managing the month with a daily dose of sunshine. January isn’t the cruelest month… they are all variously cruel, especially when you lose favorite authors and longtime friends.
Today I heard about my pal, Bill Moody, who began publishing mysteries with me at Walker & Company Publishing, back in the early ’90s, has passed away. We each published about four books in our series (me starting with The Bluejay Shaman and Bill with Solo Hand, about his jazz pianist who loses use of one hand so begins sleuthing.) We shared an editor and publisher, as well as two different agents for a time. Bill was an accomplished jazz drummer who worked all over the world with Lou Rawls and many others. He introduced me to people at conventions, and vice versa, and we became convention buddies.
In 1996 at Left Coast Crime in Boulder, Colorado, he played drums unrehearsed as I recited my little tone-poem, Rides a Black and White Horse, told from the point of view of a mystery novel.
One of the highlights of my life, that night, and Bill just did it, impromptu and without an anxious moment. (Bill is in the back, out of sight, in this photo. Jerry Healy in the red shirt is also sadly gone.) John Harvey, a fellow jazz aficionado with Bill, played tambourine for me and Alan Russell did his finger-snapping.
Bill taught creative writing at Sonoma State in Santa Rosa, California. My last contact with him was last fall, when I asked on Facebook if anybody knew if he was out of harm’s way of the raging fires there. He sent me a friend request, said he was fine, then disappeared again… Bill could be irascible but he had a big heart. He once told me that our editor was saying things about me at a convention, which you might find cruel, but it was actually something I really needed to know. He didn’t pull punches, he told it like it was. Bill was 76 (and a heavy smoker… We traveled to Nottingham Bouchercon in the UK together about the time smoking was banned on all flights, and I remember how pissed off he was! I mention this just to show you that smokers do sometimes beat the odds.)
He died in his sleep on January 14, and was found when he didn’t show up for a gig. I will miss you, Bill. We all will. Rest in peace.
Another author who recently passed away is Peter Mayle, author of the hilarious memoirs and crime capers set in southern France. His success with A Year in Provence was unexpected and huge, creating problems for Mayle and his wife, Jennie, especially when the BBC created a television series based on their lives. They decamped to the US for awhile then relocated in a secret location in Provence. My friend Helen and I hiked through the Luberon last spring near where they lived and missed our chance to meet Mr. Mayle! (Not that we tried, but it would have been fun.) I loved his books, read them all, especially his later novels like Hotel Pastis and A Good Year, made into a delicious film with Russell Crowe. The closest we came was drinking a bottle of wine from the real vineyard where A Good Year was filmed. (Very good!)
The New York Times said:
As the British newspaper The Telegraph noted in revisiting its success in a 2006 article, the book [A Year in Provence] “somehow tapped deep into a slumbering, latent, hitherto unknown British desire for sunshine and fine wine, for peeling shutters and croissants, for distressed armoires and saucisson and the good life in the French countryside.”
My Bennett Sisters Mysteries owe a huge debt of gratitude for Mayle, who not only kindled that desire in the British but also Americans, Australians, and just about everyone else. No more of that delectable, dry British wit. 😢 Mayle was 78.