Monday, December 8, 2008

Absent Friends

by Roberta

I kept Patrick O'Brian's
New York Times obituary on my bulletin board for five years after his death in 2000. It seemed impossible to accept that there would never be another book in the Aubrey/Maturin series that began so thrillingly with Master and Commander. I feel like I know Captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey and the Irish physician and spy Stephen Maturin. Oh, I could (and did) re-read the 20 books in the series, but never to have a new installment? There was no joy in Mudville that year.

In 2004, there was the surprise publication of an unfinished, and untitled Aubrey/Maturin novel, simply called 21. I read it very slowly, trying to make it last. Since it included the original hand-written manuscript, I read that too.

When Michael Crichton recently passed away, I felt a similar pang. No more of his signature blend of science and suspense, and then the doubtless entertaining film to follow. I thought his novels had fallen off a bit of late, my favorite being
Andromeda Strain, but I still read them. I'll never forget standing on a bridge with my teenage son a few years ago, watching an immense flock of tiny birds wheeling and diving over the river, and turning to each other with the same comment, "Prey." We had listened to the gripping audio version on a recent road trip.

I imagine that many readers felt the same dismay when Dorothy Dunnett died, or George MacDonald Fraser, or Tony Hillerman. It somehow seems worse when you have loved the characters through a long series like
The Lymond Chronicles or the Jim Chee mysteries.

Let me offer you hope amidst this melancholy editorial. I promise you, this year you will discover an author you have never read before, and they will go on to write a dozen novels that you will love. In 2008 I discovered Jim Butcher - lucky me! So tell me, what author do you miss that will never write again? Who did you recently discover?


Laura A. said...

I miss Arthur Miller, but I am grateful for his many plays, particularly Death of a Salesman, which will be the Tuesday morning book discussion title in February.

Cheryl said...

I don't think there are any deceased authors that I miss, but when an elderly author that I like comes out when a new book I have this concern that they'll die and I'll never learn how the series will end!

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