Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Gone Too Soon

I love the anticipation of a new book by a favorite author. For me, nothing is better than when you see that tweet, blog post, or e-mail that finally provides a release date for that new novel you’ve been craving. I love knowing that despite my impatience David Mitchell is out there, somewhere, working on his next novelOr his first opera.. In contrast, one of the worst feelings in the world is when you know that a beloved author will never release another book; bad enough when it’s because the author retires (Bill Watterson) or passes away at an advanced age (Ray Bradbury), but it’s the worst when an author dies young. Here are three authors whose work I love and who I wish were still here.

Joseph Garber

I first encountered Garber with the novel Vertical Run which to this day is probably the best thrillerYes, yes it appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds. I have ever read. The protagonist, Dave Elliot, shows up at the office on what appears to be a completely normal day, at least until his boss tries to kill him. When his boss fails, the next thing you know there’s a squad of trained killers locking down Dave’s building trying to finish the job. Luckily Dave’s former life as a member of Special Forces enables him to stay one step ahead of the bad guys as he tries to figure out why everyone is suddenly trying to kill him. The cover of my copy says “Soon to be a major motion picture”. I wish this were true because while reading I kept thinking what a great movie this book would make. I’ve read Garber’s other three books (Ransom Money, In a Perfect State, and Whirlwind) and they are good, if slightly less impressive than Vertical Run. Regardless, it is a tragically short back catalog as Garber died of a heart attack at age 61.

Ken Grimwood

Whenever someone asks me for a book recommendation I inevitably turn to Grimwood’s Replay. I’ve probably recommended this book to over 20 very diverse in their reading habits people and I’ve yet to hear back anything negative. The quickest way to explain the plot of Replay is to compare it to the movie Groundhog Day, except instead of living the same day over and over you get to live your life over and over. Jeff Winston is 43 when he suffers a heart attack and dies. He wakes up and he is 18 again, with all his memories from his previous life intact. Haven’t we all at some point wished we knew at 18 what we know now? So boy it is fun watching Jeff get this chance and seeing how he chooses to live each new life. Sadly, Grimwood himself died of a heart attack while supposedly working on a sequel to Replay. He has written five other novels of which I have read Breakthrough (which is also a great book if not as outstanding as Replay).

Kage Baker

Unlike Grimwood and Garber, Baker was a very prolific writer, with 15 or so novels in addition to many novellas and short stories. I absolutely love Baker’s The Company series, in which a group of people in the future develop immortal cyborgs and send them back in time to preserve valuable items that are lost (think of a plant that can cure cancer that became extinct in 1430 or one of Diego Velazquez’ paintings lost in a fire in 1734). The cyborgs facilitate the acquisition of these items through undercover interaction with the mortals. Baker’s fantasy series (starting with The Anvil of the World) is also great and though most people know her from The Company books I think The Anvil of the World stories are, if missing the same highs The Company Books hit, more consistent. Baker, with her description of the 1916 silent film IntoleranceWhat director D.W. Griffith was able to accomplish with 1916 technology is absolutely stunning. Seriously go check it out. Mendoza in Hollywood, is also responsible for getting me interested in the silent film era. Unfortunately Baker died of uterine cancer at the age of 57.

So what about you? What other authors have died too soon?

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