I am very sad to report that George Chesbro died this morning after an illness.For those who have not read Chesbro’s work, he was the Washington, D.C.-born author of 27 books, including the renowned “Mongo the Magnificent” series (Shadow of a Broken Man, An Affair of Sorcerers, Dark Chant in a Crimson Key, etc.), which blended mystery and suspense with elements of science fiction and the supernatural. In addition to the Mongo stories, Chesbro wrote several novels featuring other characters from the Mongo universe (notable among them being Mongo’s brother and sometime partner, Garth Frederickson), as well as a few standalones, including Bone (1989) and The Keeper (2000). His first novel, King’s Gambit, was published in 1976, and his most recent one, Strange Prey and Other Tales of the Hunt, came out in December 2004. Chesbro was the recipient of an Ellery Queen Award and had served as president of the Mystery Writers Association of America.
Like all of you, I am a huge fan of George’s work. My friendship with him began in 1999 when I sent him a letter describing the fan website that I had created for his work. He liked what I’d done, and over the next couple of months, the fan site was transformed into Dangerous Dwarf, the official George C. Chesbro website.
I’ve very much enjoyed my friendship with George and [his wife] Robin over the years, and I will miss being able to correspond with him.
I'm sure Mongo and Garth will miss him, too.
You can learn more about him and his work by reading a pair of interviews, one from the Mystery One Bookstore site (and conducted by Jon Jordan), the other from the New York Press.
George Clark Chesbro was 68 years old.
POSTSCRIPT FROM J. KINGSTON PIERCE: This is surely bad news to wake up to on a Wednesday morning, or any morning for that matter. Back in the mid-1980s, when I’d just started out in this business of writing about crime and mystery fiction, George Chesbro was kind enough to let me visit him at his home in New York. This was after An Affair of Sorcerers had reached bookstores, but I think prior to the publication of what would become his cult novel, The Beasts of Valhalla (1985). He and his wife welcomed me into their home, where I stayed for several hours, discussing with him Mongo’s adventures, the current condition and future of crime fiction, and his interest in chess. He struck me as a kind and thoughtful man, one in whose orbit it would be easy to stay. He finally sent me away with a signed copy of King’s Gambit and what I thought then would be a never-ending interest in his work. But I confess, Chesbro finally dropped off my radar in the ’90s, as the number of authors I was interested in expanded exponentially, and I no longer had time to read everything that caught my eye. However, I still have all of the Chesbro books I collected, mostly from the Mongo series. I remember them as not only entertaining, but suspenseful and full of characters drawn so well that I either wanted to be their friends for life ... or were worried that they’d leap out from the page and do me harm, as well. Now that I’m near the completion of my two non-fiction books for this year (would somebody please remind me never to take on that sort of task again?), I think it’s time to revisit Mongo, his brother, Garth, and the often strange world in which they lived. I’m sorry that it’s Chesbro’s death that causes me to take up this task, but pleased that I am able, finally, to do so. Mongo, and Chesbro, should be part of every reader’s world.
UPDATE: Hunter Goatley contributed a fine follow-up post about Chesbro’s demise to The Rap Sheet. You can read it here.
READ MORE: “George Chesbro, R.I.P.,” by Sarah Weinman (Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind); “George Chesbro Dies,” by Patti Abbott (Pattinase); “George C. Chesbro (1940-2008),” by Elizabeth Foxwell (The Bunburyist).