Monday, July 29, 2013

Leighton, a personal remembrance



At Bouchercon in Indianapolis in 2009, Leighton Gage moderated a panel called Murder  at the Edge of the Map.  The other writers on the dais included Yrsa and Stan.  Since my first novel, out just a month, was set not only far away, but long ago, I was anxious to hear what other, more experienced writers had to say on the subject of stories set in exotic locations.  The meeting room was packed with people.

Leighton showed the audience a bracelet he wore, made by a Brazilian Indians, that was a charm to boost ones creativity.  I remember wishing I had such a thing, but I was too shy to introduce myself to Leighton, much less ask him where I could get one.  Had I been more courageous, I have no doubt he would have sent me one, if not taken his off and given it to me on the spot.  That was the kind of man he was: generous, giving, helpful, encouraging.  But I did not know that yet.

Several months later, out of the blue, an email from Leighton arrived in my inbox.  He had searched me out to tell me that he had read City of Silver as part of his service on the Edgar Awards jury for best first novel.  He had been disappointed that the book had not garnered a nomination, and he was talking it up on internet chat rooms because he knew how difficult it is to get a good book noticed.  He invited me here to Murder is Everywhere to do a guest post.  He stayed in touch, always encouraging, open, warm, and charming.

Then, one day, we found we would both be in Italy at the same time.  He came with his friend Jes to visit me in Florence.  We had two days to eat good food, drink good wine, and talk writing, books, the biz, life.  In those days, Leighton learned of my husbands Alzheimers disease.  One of the things I confessed to him was that my weekends were lonely, when I was caring for David on my own and when the love of my life could no longer be a companion.  After that, on Fridays Leighton would write me an email posing a subject for discussion, usually one having to do with writing fiction.  Then, through the weekend, he would keep me company in long written conversations.

In the past few days, with comments here on MIE and on Facebook, it has become clear how many people Leighton befriended in just such ways.  Its impossible to fathom how he had the time to do all that while being a loving husband and father AND writing such wonderful booksone every year.

The people Leighton gathered around him are themselves a warm, welcoming, affectionate bunch.  They are generous and bring out the best in one another.  They are different from Leighton and from each other in many ways, but not in all the virtues one would desire in a colleague and friend.  He brought out in others what was wonderful in himself.  It seems a magic trick, but he performed it.  Then he gave us one another.

My gratitude and love and admiration are Leightons forever.

Annamaria - Monday

17 comments:

  1. Annamaria, I'm so touched...
    Such a beautiful picture, moving words...

    Christiane from Belgium

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    1. Thank you, Christiane. I know he appreciated very much your reports of his books when you found them at book fairs.

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  2. What a lovely tribute. You are so fortunate to have had those wonderful times with this gifted man. Few people on this planet have that kind of real angel sent to them from heaven. Cherish them as long as you have breath. Thelma Straw in Manhattan

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    1. You are so right, Thelma. In that picture, he looks like what he was--a guardian angel to this writer.

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  3. He was a rare person. We'll all miss him for a long time.

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  4. I'm with Tim on that. Annamaria, you did our friend proud.

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  5. Thank you, Tim and Jeff. It helps for us to all be together on this page these sad days.

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  6. Wonderful thoughts and memories, Annamaria. Leighton was a giver and a person who spoke of 'us' rather than 'me'. We've all benefited from his grace and generosity. We'll all miss him.

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  7. My Memory of Leighton was Chatting with Him on Barnes&Noble "Mystery" When Many Authors visited from "Murderiseverywhere that was Hosted by Becke Davis..It was so Gracious of him to chat with us..It honestly felt we were all having Coffee at A Cafe..Tim,Thank you for your Beautiful FB Post.Leighton is Still Around,and must be so Grateful for All The Love..R.I.P. Leighton

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  8. It'll take me a log time to get used to the idea that Leighton isn't just there, on the other side of an email or a discussion board, as a constant source of encouragement, wisdom and enthusiasm.

    Like so many other people, I was very lucky to have known him.

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  9. It is heartwarming to know how much Leighton was loved and appreciated. We are preparing a remembrance for his family. I am sure it will comfort them to know of the gratitude of so many for the way he lived his life.

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  10. It is very sad news. The loss to his family must be overwhelming. It is a loss also to writers, bloggers and readers of crime fiction.

    Also, Leighton was one of the good guys, for social justice, which came out in his books and on this blog.

    As I said earlier, I have never learned so much about Brazil as I did from his educational and compassionate posts on so many aspects of life in Brazil.

    It is a very good idea to put together a memorial message for his family.

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    1. Kathy, thanks for adding the virtue of how Leighton thought about the world. He saw a lot of it first hand. He never shrank from considering its problems. It is clear in what he wrote and said that he thought about them deeply and you and agree, he came out on the right side.

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  11. Annamaria, a lovely tribute to a special man. Thank you very much.

    After Leighton talked about his experience on the Edgar panel to choose the best first book in 2009, I asked him to name some of the titles that weren't nominated, but that, in his opinion, should have been. Two of the books he named were your CITY OF SILVER and Lenny Kleinfeld's SHOOTERS & CHASERS. I read and loved both.



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  12. Thanks, Georgette. Leighton gave me readers like you. The best gift a writer can have. See my comment to Lenny's post today.

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  13. Not only Leighton, but the Christian Science Monitor recognized your great gift with "woids." I can't think of a more fitting successor to the big guy's Monday slot than you, his handpicked choice.

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  14. Thank you so much, Jeff, for saying this. You knew at once how very bittersweet this inheritance is for me. So bitter because of our great loss. So sweet to be left a place among writers I so respect and admire, who are the best group of writing buddies on the planet. Obaat! Obaat!

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