Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Old Year Passeth, Ring in the New.

Rhys here on New Year's Day. Since everyone else seems to be reflecting on the past year, I thought I'd better do the same.

It's been a great year in many ways. Highlights for me were buying a condo in Arizona and spending the winter months getting to know the desert, a fabulous trip to England with my daughter, husband and granddaughters, watching their faces as they explores castles and learned independence, and a brilliant week hiking in Sedona with my friends. Workwise it was satisfying to see my new series doing well, and watching Her Royal Spyness stay #1 on the IMBA bestseller list for three months in a row was a definite rush. Nicer still are the letters I get from readers telling me how much they love the new series and how the books have cheered them in troubled times. Exactly why I started writing them!

On the negative side this year has been watching my daughter struggling with being laid off and then unemployed for almost a year. And the mystery community lost three writers who meant a lot to me personally. First was Ed Hoch, the king of the short story. My first big award nomination was for best short story at the Anthonys. I was up against Ed Hoch--a legend in the short story world, when I was a complete newcomer. I called him Mr. Hoch but he greeted me warmly and treated me as an equal. He was a warm, wonderful man and for the first time in living memory there will no longer by a story by Ed Hoch in every edition of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

The second was Elaine Flinn. The things I'll remember about Elaine--she was larger than life. She had a big voice, big hair, huge laugh. She was kind and generous. I enjoyed our times together in the local MWA chapter.

And then there was Tony Hillerman: my personal idol. When people ask me which mystery writers I admire, Tony always came first. He was the person who got me started writing mysteries. In my early years I thought all mysteries took place in English country houses with detectives who were genteel spinsters or dignified upper class Englishmen. Then I discovered Tony's books. I was, as they say in England, gobsmacked. This man told a darn good story, a gripping mystery, but above all he brought the Southwest culture and landscape to life so vividly that when I finally went there, I could have acted as tour guide.And the insights into the Navajo culture and way of thought--fascinating.When I realized that mysteries could transport the reader to another time or place, I knew that was what I wanted to write. My times and places are very different--the Welsh mountains, old New York and now 1930s London, but the aim is to make the reader feel that he or she is experiencing that place and that lifestyle.

When fans come up to me and say, "I just love your books!", I'm intensely embarrassed and never know what to say. I am always bemused that they see me as some kind of idol. However at one convention I was placed at the signing table next to Tony. All through the signing I had a silly grin on my face and a voice echoed through my head, "I'm sitting next to Tony Hillerman!" And I actually heard myself stammering those dreaded words, "I just love your books."And my favorite Tony story was when Robert Redford called and asked to meet with him to discuss making his books into movies. He was flying into town on Tuesday. Sorry, Tony said, Tuesday is my poker night. There was a man who always had his priorities straight. I will miss you, Tony.
I didn't start out to write a homage to Tony Hillerman, but I guess things don't always turn out as expected, do they? Next year probably won't either.But I hope it's a good one.


  1. Happy New Year, Rhys! And yes, I do love your books. Kind of partial to Georgie though. :-D

    There are many voices that have passed into the night this past year. Their legacies though, will not be forgotten.

    My personal toast is always: 'To Absent Friends' for there are those I miss personally, too.

    Blessed be, and bright new year to you and yours, and all of the Jungle Red ladies. Thanks for a brighter 2008, and a promising new year.


  2. bring tears to my eyes. Thank much.

    And to you too.

  3. Thank you, Rhys. I have so much enjoyed getting to know Molly Murphy lately for the first time. I applaud you for creating an energetic, modern-thinking, historically accurate sleuth for us to enjoy. Don't know how you do it, but I love the stories!

    And Tony Hillerman - now I have to feel about him as I did about Dorothy Sayers: damn, there won't be any new books for me from him.

    Happy new year to all, nonetheless,


  4. Sarah Weinman has a very nice tribute to Donald Westlake..

  5. any more posts coming ?