Monday, October 4, 2021

In Remembrance of Bill Gottfried

 Annamaria on Monday

Bill Gottfried lit up every room he walked into. I imagine that this was true everywhere he went. It certainly was in the places where we mystery writers encountered him. Sitting on one dais or another as the audience members filed in, I always felt my own anticipation take a turn for the better when Bill and Toby arrived.  Their attendance always notched up by several levels my expectations of the event.  Their being present made me want to up my own game.  In fact, having them around always made any event better: the talk around a dinner table, even chance conversations in elevator banks or hotel lobbies suddenly became more interesting, more fun, more engaging when they were there.

Bill's light never glared.  He provided gentle, but somehow penetrating illumination.  In both public and private discourse, his questions were never negative, not challenges, but irresistible invitations to go deeper and think more broadly about the topic at hand.  And he seemed to be able to do this regardless of what the topic was. In literary discussions, for sure. But also in the meanings of historical or current events, or the usefulness of butterflies... Never once, in my experience did any of his erudition come across as braggadocios.  Always, it was instead a call to engage in an enjoyable mental dance.

What Bill and Toby did for me personally was precious.  They made me feel that I belonged.  I don't know anyone who wouldn't say the same.

This week, as we on MIE, in our own way, observe the traditional seven days of reflection and remembrance, my heart is with Toby.  A favorite memory of mine illustrates exactly how she affected me with her acceptance of all things and her witty responses to life.  I don't remember exactly which Bouchercon or Left Coast Crime conference it was, but it was in those days when Yrsa Sigurdardottir would bring strange, unappetizing Icelandic treats for everyone to try. That year it was pickled sheep testicles. I kid you not. I was sitting at the signing table near Yrsa when she asked Toby if she wanted to try them. Toby took a taste, considered it a moment, and said, "It lacks salt." That's Toby for you--up for a challenge, game to try almost anything, and ready with a witty response that will make you laugh out loud.

I send Toby my deepest condolence in these difficult days, and I hope that she is finding solace and comfort from family members and friends gathering around her.  May the light of memories of Bill shine on her and comfort her forever.


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