Sunday, October 3, 2021

Bill Gottfried. What Can I Say?

Zoë Sharp


It’s hard to recall the first time I met Bill and Toby Gottfried. They are the kind of people you feel you have known forever. It’s harder still to separate the two of them. It was always Bill and Toby, Toby and Bill.


And now Bill is no longer with us, and the entire mystery community is grieving a man who was unfailingly polite, charming, and erudite.


He and Toby would always sit right on the front row of every panel event they attended. And you knew, when it came to the point where the moderator threw it open for questions from the audience, Bill would have a doozy waiting for you. Not the kind of question that was normally asked, but one that made you think about, and re-evaluate, everything that had just been discussed. I often thought we should get him to pose his question at the beginning of the session, rather than the end.


Ever since I first began attending US crime and mystery conventions, in 2004, the Gottfrieds were in attendance more often than they were absent. I was delighted to be present at Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina, when they were presented with the David Thompson Memorial Special Service Award for their dedication to promoting crime fiction. It was richly deserved.


I’m told that the Gottfrieds’ California home housed upwards of 15,000 books. I’m willing to bet Bill had read most of them.


I shall treasure the dinner we had with Bill and Toby during Bouchercon in Albany, NY, in 2013. And I will regret, always, that the Covid pandemic caused the cancellation of all face-to-face events over the last year and a half, and that I missed the chance to catch up with Bill, in person, for the last time.


He was a kind and gentle soul with a fierce intellect. The type of person you encounter so rarely they are to be treasured when you do.


My heart and my thoughts are with Toby, and with their family as they sit shiva for him. He will be forever missed.

Toby and Bill at Left Coast Crime 2006
in Bristol, UK, where they were the
Fan Guests of Honour

This week’s Word of the Week is hapax legomenon, from the Ancient Greek, meaning something occurring or said only once.



  1. A beautiful tribute, Zoë, to a beautiful soul. God bless us all.

  2. I’m so sorry to be late on this - I’ve been out of wifi range and this is such sad news about Bill.
    My heart goes to Toby and the family! Wonderfully said Zoë!

  3. Such a perfect tribute. Thank you, Zoë.