As this year ends I thought I would write about some of the authors who passed away this year. Now I don’t want to bum anyone out here. We want to celebrate these writers and then maybe read some of their books. I will, however, link their names to news about their passing if you wish to learn more.
There are a lot of authors in the world, and I’m sure there are plenty of others that perhaps deserved mention here. This is not meant to be an inclusive list, so if you see someone I left out please talk about them in the comments, and maybe point to which of their books we should take a look at.
I also had to decide in what order to do this list. My first thought was to be random, but I do not have my dice with me (and I am willing to bet a lot of money and/or chocolate that I have more dice than you do). Chronological would work, but my list isn’t currently in that order and that would mean more work, so alphabetical it is. Here we go!
Stephen Birmingham, American author of nonfiction, mostly about the wealthy, notably those of ethnicity. He also wrote some novels along these lines. America’s Secret Aristocracy is one of the former, and The Auerbach Will one of the latter.
Marcia Brown, American writer and illustrator of children’s books, and winner of three(!) Caldecott Medals. She was born in Rochester, New York, where I once lived, but I suppose that is irrelevant. Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper was one of her award winners.
Vincent Bugliosi, American attorney and nonfiction writer. As a Deputy District Attorney he successfully prosecuted Charles Manson. Later he coauthored (with Curt Gentry) the stranger-than-fiction account of that case, the chilling Helter Skelter. Way back before my library days I had a coworker who was too scared to read this on his own, so every day when I came in to work I had to recap my reading for him.
Ivan Doig, American author. Most of his books were set in his native Montana, as he brought his own voice to American Western literature. He also penned a couple of memoirs. The Bartender’s Tale sounds like a good read based on the title alone.
Dorothy Butler, New Zealand children’s writer and reading advocate. She wrote both for kids and for parents trying to get their kids to read. She was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her efforts. Her Babies Need Books is used by library staff to help plan programs. My Brown Bear Barney is one of her picture books.
Ellen Conford, American writer of children’s and young adult books. She won numerous awards and had several of her books adapted into television specials. A Job for Jenny Archer starts off an eight book series.
Wes Craven, American film director. Yes, Craven is famous for the many horror movies he did such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, but he also took a crack at writing. Fountain Society is part medical thriller, part conspiracy story, and part ghost story.
Peter Dickinson, English writer of children’s books, detective books, and poetry. Not everyone can say that! He won two Carnegie Awards, was a finalist for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal. Try his James Pibble series, starting with The Glass-Sided Ants’ Nest.
E. L. Doctorow, American writer of historical fiction. He was also an editor and professor, and won more awards than he had books. You can’t really go wrong reading any of his. Billy Bathgate is one of his most celebrated works.
Wayne Dyer, American self-help writer and speaker. Dyer’s book sales are in the tens of millions. His debut, Your Erroneous Zones, has sold an estimated 35 million copies by itself. That puts him in some pretty exclusive company.
Joseph Girzone, American author and Catholic priest. His best known work is the Joshua series, which reached ten volumes. After initially selling his books out of the trunk of a car, he ultimately reached sales numbering in the millions.
Tanith Lee, British writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. She wrote over 90 novels, plus assorted other things. She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for a novel, and she received numerous other nominations and awards. She often did dark spins on fairy tales, such as this variation on Snow White: White As Snow.
Pedro Lemebel, Chilean writer. Surely not as well known in these parts as some of the others, but I think a lot of lists could be improved with the addition of gay Chilean writers. Try his My Tender Matador, translated by Katherine Silver.
Colleen McCullough, Australian writer. Her second book, The Thorn Birds was not only an international bestseller but also was adapted into one of the most popular television miniseries of all time. She did so much research for her Masters of Rome series that Macquarie University awarded her a degree.
Ann McGovern, American writer of more than 50 children’s books. She also once lived in the narrowest house in New York City. She wrote all kinds of books, like Shark Lady: True Adventures of Eugenie Clark.
Terry Pratchett, English fantasy writer. Actually that would be Sir Terry Pratchett, having been knighted for his writing endeavors. His Discworld series spanned 41 books by the end, was published in 37 languages, and has sold nearly 100 million copies overall. He even tweeted his own death. The Colour of Magic starts the series off.
Thomas Piccirilli, American author who wrote in multiple genres and won four Bram Stoker Awards. Now unfortunately horror is an underrepresented genre around here (demographics and all that), so you won’t find any of his books on our shelves, but you will find many of them as eBooks, such as The Night Class.
Paul Prudhomme, American celebrity chef. He authored cookbooks focusing on Creole and Cajun cuisine, starred in five seasons of cooking shows, and is in the Culinary Hall of Fame. I myself don’t go much for the spicy stuff, but that is my failing, so cook away: Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Fiery Foods That I Love.
Ann Rule, American true crime writer. She was already doing some crime writing when she started working alongside a man named Ted Bundy. This ultimately led to her writing one of the top books about him, The Stranger Beside Me, and she followed that with many well known true crime books.
Lou Silverstone, American comedy writer. He wrote for MAD magazine for almost 30 years. Oh yes, they still print MAD, and yes, you can get it from the library. He also wrote a bit for MAD’s competitor, Cracked. That magazine is no longer in print, but is thriving online.
Bertrice Small, American romance writer. She wrote both historical and erotic romances, and believe me, there is a difference. The romance genre has more rules to it than you would think. She wrote over 50 books, some stand alone but most in series, and of course received numerous awards and honors. Darling Jasmine features Skye O’Malley, one of her more beloved characters.
Vera Williams, American writer and illustrator of children’s books. Her most well known book A Chair for My Mother won the Caldecott Medal and was featured on Reading Rainbow. Also available in Spanish.
Eric Wright, Canadian writer of mystery novels. Like many authors he was also a professor. His police procedurals won the Arthur Ellis Award four times, and he received numerous other awards and nominations. The Last Hand.
T. M. Wright, American author of horror, speculative fiction, and poetry, which is a wonderful trifecta. Another writer who isn’t on our physical shelves but is on our digital ones, such as his A Manhattan Ghost Story (and its sequels), which has been published in over a dozen countries.
Wow, that is quite a list, and with quite a bit of literary diversity on it as well. If you have any fond remembrances of these authors, or other authors for that matter, please share them below. Like for instance there was that that time I was reading Sir Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal in a Golden Corral, and…well…that is a really boring story. Not the book, mind you. The book is really good. My story about it is boring. We need better stories around here! I’m counting on you!