Martin Amis Obituary: Goodbye To A Titan Of Moden Literature

Martin Amis, the son of Kingsley Amis and acclaimed author in his own right, has died at his home in Florida of oesophageal cancer aged 73. He passed away on the 19th May and is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.

Although his father was a renowned author who wrote on of my favourite novels ever, Lucky Jim, Martin Amis made a name for himself in his own right thanks to his unique brand of observational humour and creative characterisation.

In the 1980s, alongside seminal writers like Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and others, Amis was credited with shaping the UK writing scene. His work is usually character-driven and deeply droll, as he delves into the worst of human, usually male, nature. He created several seminal novels, including Money, a first-person narration telling the story of a chaotic and hedonistic New York film director, and London Fields, a comedic take on a dystopian novel crossed with a murder-mystery.

Most of Amis’s books have a major plot twist, which usually turns the entire premise of the novel on its head. Amis was also famed for his unreliable first-person narrators, who were often men at the very end of their tethers, who indulge in substance abuse and are often mentally unstable. He was also deeply concerned by the accession of nuclear power, and wrote several novels and stories around the subject, including his essay and short-story collection Einstein’s Monsters, the award-winning Money.

Almost every book by Amis was on a major topic that affected humanity, including the sexual revolution and feminism, as explored in The Pregnant Widow, terrorism in the short stories from
The Second Plane, Stalin’s Soviet Union crimes in Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million and even his own relationship with his father in his memoir Experience, which he wrote following Kingsley Amis’s death in the late 1990s. Amis often wrote set his novels in or around London, and was known for writing about Americans in the country in particular, and their culture differs drastically from British sensibilities.

Each work is heavily researched, particularly when it involves a real-life event, and is engaging thanks the author’s unique perspective and hard-drive prose. Every word is put to work to drive the narrative onwards, and Amis never missed an opportunity to deliver a gut-punch that will shock and inspire the reader. His works changed opinions and opened up new dialogues about tough subjects, and while his words weren’t always taken well by some, they were always delivered with a great deal of respect and an attempt at understanding and empathy.

Alongside his extensive back catalogue of written work, which included essays, short stories and novels, Amis also taught at the University of Manchester, and worked to mould the next generation of authors. He was known to struggle when communicating his idealogical views, especially when it came to discussing religion and politics, but he was still a vocal writer who enjoyed sharing his views on the latest news with the world in the form of columns and articles in some of the major newspapers and essays shared in various collections. Even those who disagreed with Amis, and I was, at times one of them, had to admit that the man was empathetic and informed even when making statements we didn’t agree with.

Overall, the sudden death of Martin Amis at a relatively young age by today’s standards is a great shame for those who loved classic literature and enjoyed his witty dialogue and incredibly unique takes on the human condition. His family are in my thoughts as I re-read old favourites and miss this titan of the literary community.

Wilbur Smith Obituary

Global best-selling author and renowned thrill seeker Wilbur Smith has died at his home in South Africa at the age of 88 on the 13th November 2021.

Born in Zambia, the writer was an adventurer and seasoned international traveller who drew on his own experiences to create gripping tales of global misadventure and daring. His characters were strong and well-rounded, his settings always realistic and his plots gripping and tantalising.

Having grown up with a love of adventure and the great outdoors, Smith went on to become an internationally acclaimed author whose books are now translated into dozens of languages and were even made into blockbuster movies staring some of the world’s most renowned actors, including Roger Moore.

Over the years, as well as writing many bestselling novels, Smith went on to run a ranch, own an island in the Seychellesand more. He was an experienced outdoorsman who enjoyed big game hunting, scuba diving, travelling around the world and much more.

He was also a prolific reader and an experienced marksman who was passionate about gun and rifles. He drew on this knowledge when writing his many books and created realistic scenes in which his characters were backing into corners and had to use their wits and weapons to fight their way out. The writer also had a pilot’s licence and flew all over Africa and owned a number of boats, which he used to see more of the world and go on many adventures that would eventually help to inform his published work.

Despite considering a career in journalism, Smith ending up training as an accountant. In this boring job, he found plenty of time to write and started crafting unforgettable tales, which he later started publishing.

His first novel Where The Lion Feeds was so immensely successful when it came out in 1966 that he quickly followed it up with The Dark Of The Sun the next year.

Throughout the decades Smith’s work became even more popular with a wide range of readers, and he eventually started writing several series of books about revered families, including the Courtney family and the Ballantynes.

He also wrote a series of historical novels set in Ancient Egypt, that were set mostly in the time of the Pharaoh Memnon and addressed his reign through his eyes and those of one of his family’s slaves, Taita.

Many of his other books also covered historical periods of civil and military unrest, particularly in his home continent of Africa. While some critics have accused the writer of not researching thoroughly, many have deemed his portrayals to be as accurate as possible for historical works. They’re also deeply interesting and give a unique perspective on many periods of time and regions that weren’t extensively covered in popular fiction of the early 1960s and beyond.

In recent times, Smith worked on new novels and co-wrote them with many other popular writers, which created a unique view on his characters and the adventures in which they participated. He also wrote children’s stories in collaboration with Chris Wakling and autobiographical works that explored his upbringing in Africa and his adventures in some of the most beautiful and amazing parts of the world.

Outside of his work as a popular fiction writer, Smith had a large family, with whom he often had a tempestuous relationship, but undoubtably they and his many fans will miss his unique perspective on the world and his undeniably fascinating way of bringing even simple stories to life in amazing detail.

With a little under 50 books in his back catalogue, Smith has left behind an extensive legacy of incredible thrillers and action-packed adventure stories that will remain popular for many centuries. His work will, and undoubtably has already, influenced the way writers view mystery, thriller and adventure novels.

Mo Hayder Obituary

It’s with a heavy heart that I share the news that novelist Clare Dunkel, who wrote under the pseudonyms Mo Hayder and Theo Clare, as died at the age of just 59, after battling Motor Neurone Disease.

Mo Hayder, as she was most commonly known, worked around the world, before her debut novel Birdman was published at the end of 1999. It was a shockingly graphic tale of the investigation into the ritualist murders of multiple women in London. The novel was revered as refreshingly intense and deeply thriller by both readers and critics alike.

In book she introduced her main protagonist, Jack Caffery, who appears in several of her novels. He’s a driven detective inspector who’s not phased by anything. He’s often called to the scene of gruesome crimes. Many of Hayder’s books involve despicable crimes and horrendous crime scenes, or difficult topics, such as paedophilia.

As well as the Jack Caffery novels, the author also wrote four standalone novels and put together the screenplay for a Dutch language version of her novel The Treatment. A versatile writer and supportive member of the writing community, Hayder contributed a great deal to the world of literature and thriller writing. Her work inspired many other dark crime fiction writers, and helped to define the modern thriller market.

Despite having left school at just 15 years old to become a waitress, then working around the world, including in Tokyo, a city which she eventually named a novel after, Hayder later returned to the world of education and earned herself two Master’s degrees; one in film making from the American University in Washington DC and the other in creative writing from Bath Spa University. She also had jobs as a waitress, security guard and international English teacher before she started writing professionally and making a name for herself in the thriller writing community.

These jobs and degrees helped her to hone her writing skills, enrich her already extensive life experiences and get the confidence she needed to start writing professionally. Her first book was beloved by readers and critics alike, and all of her subsequent works have achieved similar success.

Her work is most notable for being gripping and gruesome, without being overly gory. Hayder got the balance just right, making her work appealing to a wide variety of readers. The author created amazing characters who did crazy and often terrible things. Every book was a roller coaster of emotions, and the author crafted beautiful narratives that kept readers hooked from start to well after they were finished reading.

As well as being international bestsellers, many of her novels also won accolades, including the coveted CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award. Her contribution was noted through the winning of these awards and by many reviewers who regularly pointed out the gripping nature of her work. Her work is often seen as similar to the very best Scandinavian crime fiction, as it uses many of the same tropes and similar plot devices to grip the reader and really shock them to the core.

Although Hayder’s bibliography isn’t exceptionally extensive under any name, she has made a lasting impact on the crime fiction and thriller genres thanks to her imagination and amazing skill with words. She helped to pave the way for many other writers to incorporate dark themes into their work and highlight the gruesome side of human nature.

Drawing on her extensive and varied life experiences as well as the people she knew and loved, Hayder created rich narratives and unique plots that would haunt readers long after they put her books down. Her second husband, to whom my thoughts go out at this difficult time, was a retired policeman, and presumably she drew on his past experiences, as well as her own, when writing her novels.

Shortly before her unfortunate demise, Hayder completed a new novel, The Book Of Sand, which was written under her second pseudonym, Theo Clare. The book is set to be released posthumously next year.

Ultimately, this latest novel will be an exciting addition to Hayder’s legacy of writing gripping, tense thrillers that show the very worst that humanity has to offer. It’s such a colossal shame that the thriller industry has lost such a celebrated writer, but Hayder’s work will live on and be loved by many generations to come. She’ll always be known as a master of suspense and turning difficult topics into engaging narratives. She died too soon but her work remains and will be a lasting reminder of her commitment and unique creative mind. My thoughts are with her family and loved ones, and I can only hope that her success in her profession brings them some small comfort as they grieve for their loss. It’s always a shame to lose a talented individual so soon, but she made an impression on millions of readers, as well as those lucky enough to know her and spend time with her in person.

John le Carré Obituary

It’s a sad day that I have to tell you that famed spy and thriller writer John le Carré died of pneumonia on Sunday at the age of 89.

The prolific author, who was born David John Moore Cornwell, wrote many novels and semi-autobiographical books that discuss his own work as a spy working for MI5 in the 1950s, and then in M16 in the 1960s.

During this time, he started to write his crime novels and created the character of George Smiley, who was inspired by the writer’s real life experiences. Smiley became a feature of a series of novels, including Smiley’s People, The Russia House and The Secret Pilgrim.

Throughout his career as a writer, le Carré wrote dozens of books, many of which got turned into incredible TV shows and films, including Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy, The Little Drummer Girl and The Night Manager.

All of these books and adaptations helped to cement the author as one of the top spy thriller writers in the world. His work has inspired and influenced so many other crime and thriller writers. As a writer, le Carré was renowned for his tense scenes, droll dialogue and scathing portrayals of recognisable figures from real life political and social arenas.

In both his writing and his social commentary, the author was renowned for his staunch defence of democracy. He was against Donald Trump’s appointment as president of the USA (as any sane person was), as well as the joke that is Brexit. He also loathed Vladimir Putin, and his final published novel, Agent Running In The Field, gave a scathing portrayal of Russia and its interference in the politics and polices of some of the world’s greatest superpowers, including America and the UK.

Over the decades, le Carré continued to write, and his books span the early 1960s, when the first George Smiley novel was released, through to Agent Running In The Field, which was published in 2019. Each of his novels is a unique portrayal of the tense world of international espionage, and draws you into the tense settings inhabited by his secretive and 3 dimensional characters.

He leaves behind a loving family, including 4 adult children and a wife. He died in Cornwall, which isn’t far from his birthplace of Poole, in Dorset, AKA, the best place in the world.

Overall, le Carré lived a full and inspiring life, and he will be missed not just by his close friends and family, but also by the legions of fans of his intriguing and spellbinding books.

Josephine Cox Obituary

Jo Cox

As if 2020 couldn’t get any worse, it’s with great sadness that I share the news that author Josephine Cox, who also wrote under Jo Cox and Jane Brindle, has died aged 82. 

I can’t find a reliable source on how she died, but I can only hope that she was comfortable and had her loved ones by her side when she passed.

The author is renowned for romantic fiction and novels about the strength of family, such as Two Sisters, one of her most acclaimed titles.

Her novels sold more than 20 million copies during her lifetime, according to her publishers, and she wrote prolifically, publishing more than 60 books throughout her long and illustrious career.

Cox came from humble beginnings, being one of 10 children. She married young and had kids, then started studying once they got older.

She even managed to achieve a coveted place at the prestigious Cambridge University, which she had to turn down due to her circumstances as she was unable to study away from home while she had young children.

From there, she became a teacher and imparted her wisdom and knowledge to the young. At the same time, she started to forge a career in writing, creating memorable characters and innovative plots that featured strong female protagonists like the author herself.

If anything, Cox’s own tale of overcoming adversity and making a name for herself in a world where the odds were stacked against her, being a woman, and a working class one at that, is like something out of one of her novels.

Many of her heroines overcome tough odds to rise above their stations and make something of themselves, and it’s clear that this drive and determination was, at least in part, based on the author’s own life and the challenges that she overcome.

It can’t have been easy, raising children, running a home, teaching and writing novels that would go on to become popular bestsellers, but somehow this intrepid author managed this spectacular feat.

While Cox’s work isn’t to everyone’s taste, there’s no doubt that she has left behind an immense legacy of literary excellence. Even if you can’t exactly remember her name, you’ll definitely have seen some of her books, and will recognise the bold, blocky font and quaint illustrations that characterised their front covers.

Thanks to her bold writing style, relatable characters and romantic plot lines, Cox became the inspiration for many modern romantic writers. She was one of the most prolific, and has kept up the momentum thanks to her knack for writing work that resonated with older readers and idealists.

This year hasn’t been an easy one for anyone, and for fans of romantic bestsellers this is yet another blow. However, Josephine Cox lives on in her immense collection of books, which readers should take comfort in over the coming months.

Maj Sjöwall Obituary


At the end of April, in a year that has sadly heralded a great many obituaries and broken up so many families, Maj Sjöwall, beloved crime fiction writer and translator, left us.

She died after a prolonged illness and is survived by three children and five grandchildren.

A renowned journalist and prolific translator, Sjöwall was perhaps best know as the co-creator of the Martin Beck series, which she wrote alongside her late third husband Per Wahlöö.

The novels were a unique project, a series of 10 which each took the reader a little further into the mind and work of its titular detective.

The novels went on to be an international success, and helped to pave the way for the dramatic popularity of Scandinavian crime fiction, also known as Nordic Noir, worldwide.

Thoroughly researched, the Martin Beck novels told the story of a damaged contemporary Swedish society and the depravity to which it had sunk. The authors made the novels into a unique blend of social commentary and gripping thriller, which would form the basis of the style of crime writing that we know and love today.

Their work influenced many of the greatest Scandinavian crime fiction authors of all time, including the incredible Henning Mankell.

With several children to care for, Sjöwall and Wahlöö always had limited finances, and often struggled to make ends meet. Like many of the best writers in the world, their poverty and struggles led them to create rich, fascinating works of fiction.

Today, the Martin Beck novels are renowned around the world, and have been turned into revered movies and TV shows, and have earned their creators many awards. Sjöwall, like many other creators, had cameos in the acclaimed Swedish TV series based on her books.

After the death of her collaborator and husband in 1975, Sjöwall went on to continue her work as a journalist and translator. She also published several books in collaboration with other acclaimed writers, showcasing her versatility and immense narrative skills.

In these dark times, it is a shame to lose yet another writer and valued member of society. The last Martin Beck novel was published 45 years ago, but to this very day the legacy of those incredible novels lives on. Unfortunately, neither of their creators do, but we should feel blessed that they lived fulfilling lives which gave us these phenomenal books and helped to push an entire genre of writing, Scandinavian crime fiction, onto the global literary stage.

Mary Higgins Clark Obituary

mary higgins clark

This year is beginning to feel cursed: this is the third obituary I’ve written in 2020 and it’s only the start of February.

Unfortunately, yesterday, 31st January 2020, prolific mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark died at the age of 92. 

Whilst that is, undoubtably, a good age, and Higgins Clark clearly lived her life to the fullest, this is still a sad time for mystery lovers, who will miss her exceptional writing, thrilling plots and deeply human characters.

Throughout her long and illustrious career, Higgins Clark wrote an incredible number of books. The majority were standalone mystery novels, but she did create the Alvirah and Willy Meehan series about a husband and wife team who solve fiendish murders. 

Her other most revered series was the Laurie Moran books, which focused on the producer of a show about unsolved crimes. 

These books, as well as many of her standalone novels, made Higgins Clark such a success that she was branded the “Queen of Suspense” by many readers and critics, who both adored her works and found them thrilling and gripping.

Most of her novels revolved around women overcoming odds, uncovering truths and getting out of hideous situations, and these tales of resilience really resonated with her audience.

She drew a lot on her own life for inspiration for tough women, with the author’s childhood and early career were blighted by money worries, sickness among members of her close-knit family, and rejections of her early works.

In her early years, Higgins Clark was a secretary, and later a flight attendant to make ends meet. She had an exciting early life travelling the world, before she married and settled down to family life and decided to take up writing again.

Although her initial attempts to become a literary success were fruitless, Higgins Clark eventually found success as a mystery and suspense novel writer. Before this she wrote short stories and radio scripts, where she learned to write succinctly and to put an impressive amount of detail into just a few paragraphs.

Many of her books, including The Cradle Will Fall and A Cry in the Night were turned into successful TV shows or films, with some of her works even achieving critical acclaim on the stage, which is a rare success for a writer. 

Her works translate so well because they are universally understandable, deeply emotional and completely gripping. Readers are unable to put the books down and audiences are entranced by these phenomenal stories.

As such, whilst the world lost yet another genius in the early months of 2020, Mary Higgins Clark will reman remembered for many decades to come thanks to her vast library of work. 

Christopher Tolkien Obituary

christopher tolkien

Fans of classic fantasy fiction will be sad to hear of the passing of editor and son of legend J.R.R. Tolkien died at the age of 95 on the 15th January 2020.

A titan in the literary community, Christopher Tolkien’s wit, humour and dedication to literary causes will be much missed by all who knew him and everyone who had the privilege to read anything he wrote or edited.

One of his biggest contributions was to edit and help to posthumously publish unfinished or previously unseen works by his late father, who was famed for his Lord Of The Rings saga.

While his father was alive, Christopher was the youngest member of the Inklings, an informal gathering of fantasy fans and writers. He grew up listening to tales of Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, Legolas, Gimli and the other inhabitants of Middle Earth.

After his father died in 1973, Christopher took on the role of interpreting his often confusing maps of his fictional land and finishing his unpublished work, such as The Silmarillion, a sort of Middle Earth version of the Bible, as well as Unfinished Tales and The History Of Middle Earth.

Alongside these, Christopher also wrote and edited a number of other books, mostly around the topic of fantasy fiction. His works will live on forever in this incredibly popular and world-renowned genre of literature.

In his personal life, Christopher enjoyed two marriages and fathered a number of children, the majority of whom enjoyed cordial relationships with him throughout his life, although some were a little tumultuous.

Overall, Christopher Tolkien will always be remembered as a stalwart J.R.R. Tolkien lover, historian and literary editor whose contributions to the cannon of fantasy fiction will live for the rest of eternity. It’s been a pleasure to read his incredible works and I hope he rests in power.

M.C. Beaton Obituary

MC Beaton picture

Happy New Year to everyone. We begin the Roaring ’20s with some sad news: M.C. Beaton, whose real name was Marion Chesney, has died at the age of 83. 

She left this world on the 31st December 2019, meaning she never even got to see the dawn of a new decade.

The prolific author has written a wide range of crime fiction books, mostly Golden Age style police procedurals or private eye tales. She also wrote romance novels, which, alongside some of her crime writing, were written in historical periods. Using a number of pseudonyms,  of which M.C. Beaton was just one, she wrote many books, some of which topped global bestseller lists.

Her two renowned detectives were Scottish policeman Hamish Macbeth and private detective Agatha Raisin. She also wrote standalone mystery novels and a series of Edwardian crime novels. 

Both Macbeth and Raisin are revered among crime fiction readers, and have become cult thanks to TV adaptations and their vast number of appearances in Chesney’s books.

I’m not going to pretend that I enjoyed her work: I’ve written about my dislike of her Agatha Raisin novels in detail previously, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t respect Chesney as a writer.

After all, over the years she wrote hundreds of books, many of which sold millions of copies. Her work was translated into many other languages and her characters will live on for many more years.

Her books have influenced the crime fiction genre and will remain a staple of the market. The TV shows of her books are still being created, and doubtless her works will continue to inspire other writers in creating new characters and narratives that’ll drive the crime fiction market forward.

Her other works, which include historical mysteries and other books, will also remain staples of their respective genres. As well as being a writer Chesney also had a loving family, and was a grandmother. She had a great many passions and interests, all of which shaped her writing.

Chesney’s books might not have been something I enjoyed, but they were completely fearless. I might not have liked reading her work but I definitely admired her bravery and her dedication to proving that women could be just as dangerous and daring as any man.

In all, whilst they may not be everyone’s favourites, there’s no hiding from the fact that Marion Chesney’s writing will remain an inspiration and a reference point for writers and readers over the years to come, and that they have already shaped, and will continue to influence, the crime fiction space.