Amidst all the losses this year has brought us, some significant literary losses may have gone unnoticed, so I’d like to acknowledge a few of the great American writers who are no longer with us as this crazy year comes to a close.
If you’re looking for something to read, you might want to pick up one of their books, especially if you’ve never had the opportunity to read them before.
In January, the bestselling suspense novelist Mary Higgins Clark died at the age of 92. She started writing as a teenager and continued up until her death. Not only was she a bestselling novelist, but every single one of the 56 books she wrote were bestsellers. That is an amazing accomplishment and shows that she was a beloved storyteller.
I have a sad admission here \h— despite knowing her name very well, I’ve only read one of her books, “The Cradle Will Fall,” and that was years ago when I was still in high school. I know I enjoyed reading it, so I do want to finally read more of her work.
In February, we lost Clive Cussler. Not only did he pen over 90 adventure books, he also founded the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), a non-profit organization that finds and preserves shipwrecks.
According to cusslerbooks.com, he and his crew “discovered more than 60 historically significant underwater wreck sites including the first submarine to sink a ship in battle.”
His best-known character is Dirk Pitt, and there are 25 novels featuring Pitt. Cussler was 88 when he passed away, and I think most people would agree that he lived a very full life and made a huge impact on his readers and others.
In June, the man who had long been associated with Chicano literature, Rudolfo Anaya, passed away in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after a long illness. He was 82. Anaya was best known for his first novel, “Bless Me, Ultima,” which sold hundreds of thousands of copies all over the world despite, or because of, its being banned repeatedly throughout the southern United States.
Anaya wasn’t as prolific of a writer as Clark and Cussler were, but his impact upon literature as a whole is probably greater, and I suspect that his few works will stand the test of time better, too.
In August, the 1965 Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Shirley Ann Grau, succumbed to the lingering effects of a stroke at the age of 91. Her novel “The Keepers of the House” garnered her the most-coveted American prize for literature, but her reaction to hearing the news is comical.
According to a story on nola.com that ran after her death, when Grau received the phone call telling her she’d won the Pulitzer, she thought someone was playing a practical joke on her, so she gave a terse and smart-alecky reply and promptly hung up on the caller. It took a different phone call from her publisher’s office to convince her that she’d actually won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Any online search will crank out other notable writers who passed away this year. I chose these four because of their diversity in the types of literature they wrote and because they all lived long, productive lives. While we are saddened by their loss, we can be glad they chose to write and that they have all left great books and stories behind that we can continue to enjoy for years to come.
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Contact Marshall at email@example.com. This month’s reading selection is “Possession” by A. S. Byatt.