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

maj

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. 

Marcel Berlins Obituary

marcel berlins

On 31st July 2019 the world lost a truly inspirational crime fiction reviewer. Proud Frenchman, former lawyer and discerning traveller, this man was a true maverick who had often-derisive opinions that were nonetheless well researched, well argued and often ahead of their time.

For example, he was not a fan of national service and refused to participate, which at the time was considered unpatriotic but is now considered, by many, to be a sensible course of action.

Having fled Nazi-occupied France as a child, Berlins travelled the world, and he claimed to have learned perfect English by reading Agatha Christie novels. Later, he drew on this knowledge to become a popular figure in the literary world, regularly writing reviews for revered publications such as the Guardian and the Times. He also hosted a popular Radio 4 programme on the law and was a visiting professor in journalism for the City, University of London.

He was also an expert pianist, and he combined all of these unique and disparate skills to offer his opinion on crime fiction in a way that hadn’t seen before and will never be seen again. He could get straight to the issue of any book with ease and fully understood the problems or perfection that the author had created.

Through his understanding of the law and his ability to make it easily accessible to ordinary readers with no prior understanding he was able to take apart even complicated books, plots, narratives or storylines and unpick the intricacies with ease. He understood what readers were looking for from crime fiction and offered an honest opinion on whether they were getting it or not. Witty, dry and often downright hilarious, his reviews were a great source of joy for many and, in some cases, were better than reading the book itself.

As a crime fiction blogger and reviewer myself I have always respected Berlins and I understand that his loss is a great blow to the reviewing community, and the entire crime fiction market. When he died of a brain haemorrhage at the end of July, in losing Marcel Berlins the world lost a true genius.

Andrea Levy Obituary

Andrea Levy

Arguably THE chronicler of the Windrush generation Andrea Levy has died today at the age of just 62. Her death from cancer is a shame to the literary community, who were indebted to Levy for showcasing the generation of Jamaican and Caribbean citizens who uprooted themselves to move to Britain and the challenges they faced.

Her most renowned novel is probably Small Island, the story of interracial relationships and wartime hardships among the Jamaican Windrush community during the late 1940s. The novel was a bestseller, and as a result was later serialised on by the BBC.

The BBC also serialised her her novel Long Song, the only one of her books not set in post-war Britain, but instead showing the final years of slavery in Jamaica, written as a memoir by a woman who grew up on as a slave on sugar plantation.

Although these two books are renowned by readers thanks to their TV adaptations, Levy’s other novels, as well as her short stories and essays, gained her acclaim long before these two. Her first novel, the semi-autobiographical Every Light in the House Burnin’, and her second, Never Far from Nowhere are both coming-of-age tales that showcase the difficulty of growing up in an alien country that, at the time, despised immigrants at the same time as it courted them.

Levy’s rise to prominence within the literary market was remarkable, working first as a costume designer, the co-founding a graphic design company, before realising that, although black, Caribbean writers have some prominence in other countries, in Britain their stories were not being told. Considering how entwined the UK’s history is with colonialism, immigration and racial tension, the market, even to this very day, remains predominantly white and male, and as such Levy set out to change this by making her voice heard and putting across the stories of the Windrush generation.

Her powerful, evocative and engaging work quickly gained both critical and commercial praise, with readers and reviewers alike devouring her novels. There are so many messages, from overarching themes on race and historical racial abuse through to smaller, more human touches that spark joy or sadness.

As the literary community mourns, now is the time to read or reread Andrea Levy’s work and see how important her messages are even in today’s society, where many cultures and races still face their own unique fights to be recognised and supported. These amazing books set the scene for a whole new way of thinking, and the fact that Levy will never write another makes the work she did create all the more important.

Stan Lee Obituary

stan lee

Having created some of the greater characters, series and franchises in the comic book world, Stan Lee, Marvel Comics legend, died today aged 95.

The Writer, Editor and Humanitarian was declared dead today at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to Kirk Schenck, an attorney for Lee’s daughter, J.C. Lee.

The news will have come as a shock to the comic book community, and indeed the wider creative world. The Creator and Publisher was renowned for revolutionising the superhero genre by giving his characters real emotions and dilemmas. He worked with some of the greatest artists of their times and supported film studios and TV producers in developing visual representations of his extraordinary creations.

These included the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spiderman. Many of the series wove into each other, and Lee was renowned for flawlessly integrating them and keeping the stories going, to the delight of his many readers around the world.

Having been born during the great depression in 1922, Lee gained a job at 17 in a publishing house owned by his relative Martin Goodman, and began writing scripts for superhero and mystery comics. Later, when Goodman fell out with his editor in 1941, Lee, then aged just 19, was made Editor-In-Chief.

Briefly during the Second World War Lee wrote content for the army, but he remained renowned for his work creating superheroes, crusaders and coppers.

Renowned for making short cameo appearances in films featuring his characters, as well as playing a sporting role as himself in a number of shows such as The Big Bang Theory, Lee was known for his wicked sense of humour.

Passionate about the arts, the Stan Lee Foundation was founded in 2010 to focus on literacy, education, and the arts. Its stated goals include supporting programs and ideas that improve access to literacy resources, as well as promoting diversity, national literacy, culture and the arts.

Married to Joan Boocock Lee, a voice actress whom he survived by a little over a year, Lee has two daughters who will, doubtless, miss him as much as his adoring fans, who will never forget the unique niche he carved out in the superhero genre.

Ultimately, Lee’s works and ideas have resonated across the creative community, and his unique ideas and ready wit will influence many generations to come.

Peter Corris: The Godfather Of Australian Crime Fiction Is A True Loss To The Genre

Peter Corris

It is with a heavy heart that I offer this tribute to the man often known as the ‘The Godfather of Australian Crime Fiction’, Peter Corris, who died on 30th August.

His career in crime fiction spanned nearly 40 years, with his first novel published in 1980. He retired from writing last year due to the onset of blindness, which was developing as a result of type-1 diabetes, a condition he had suffered from for many years.

Born and educated in the Australian state of Victoria, Corris went on to attend a number of Universities, including the University of Melbourne, as well as Monash University, before he gained his PHD in History at the Australian National University. Having enjoyed careers in journalism and academia, Corris set about writing crime fiction, and quickly gained acclaim for his Cliff Hardy novels, which centered on hardboiled detective and his work as he uncovered a range of gritty and often gruesome crimes. Comparable to many of the classic hardboiled detectives, Hardy is a great example of the genre, and his books are a treat for any crime fiction fan.

Alongside his Hardy novels, Corris also wrote novels featuring characters Ray Crawly, Richard Browning and Luke Dunlop. His vast body of work remains central to the Australian crime fiction space, and his work will live on as a memory of this skilled author who could expertly craft a thrilling novel that always hooked readers from the first page to the final full stop.

Corris’s death aged 76 came on the eve of him being named as the inaugural winner of the Sydney Crime Writers Festival Danger Lifetime Achievement Award, which was recognition for his vast back catalogue including more than 100 novels. This great writer will be sadly missed, and his contribution to the Australian crime fiction genre will never be forgotten.